Iowa College Students Help Monessen during Service Trip

Article excerpt

When Sarah Dentlinger left Monessen after spending last summer there, she knew she had to come back and bring some friends.

"I really loved all the people I met in the town," said Dentlinger, 22, an Iowa resident who was a program coordinator for a volunteer effort in the city last year. "It's a very welcoming town, and they're doing some great things to help the town, and I thought our group could contribute to that effort."

While local college students are taking spring break service trips to the hills of Kentucky, the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast or the slums of Brazil, Dentlinger organized a group from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa to spend their spring break in Monessen.

In a town ravaged by the loss of steel jobs in the 1980s and the subsequent loss of residents, the help is welcomed.

"Every little bit helps and gets us to our ultimate goal to renovate and make some progress here in the city," said Monessen City Clerk Rosalie Nicksich.

Dentlinger first came to Monessen through YouthWorks, a nonprofit that brings young people into a cities and towns for week-long service trips throughout the summer. It has been operating in Monessen for about eight years.

Four years ago, GreaterWorks, a spin-off organization with locations in Juarez, Mexico; Booneville and Marvel, Ark.; Pine Ridge, S.D.; and Milwaukee, began sending interns to Monessen throughout the year.

Eight students and an adviser from Wartburg are finishing a week in Monessen through GreaterWorks.

A group from Central Michigan University will be working in the city next week, said Bryan Vogel, 26, of Woodland, Wash., one of four GreaterWorks interns working in Monessen this year.

"I guess I feel like Monessen is kind of a forgotten city," Vogel said. "There's a lot of poverty and youth that need some sort of direction and love. We're trying to just hang out with them and love on them as much as we can."

The Iowa students organized donated clothing at the Schooner Youth Center. They cleaned the Acorn Adult Day Center, where they visited senior citizens there.

They spent Wednesday cleaning and painting a unit at Highland Manor, a public housing community. …