Catholic HEART Workcamp was founded by Steve and Lisa Walker, at that time they were both youth Ministers at St. Margaret Mary Church in Winter Park, FL. The idea of offering a Catholic Workcamp was inspired by their participation in non-denominational Workcamps. These Workcamps lacked a Catholic spirituality and perspective. The first Catholic HEART Workcamp was held in Orlando with 100 participants as an extension of St. Margaret Mary Youth Ministry. Father Richard Walsh, Pastor, encouraged and supported the creation and ministry of CHWC. The first Workcamp Office consisted of only a desk in the corner of Steve and Lisa’s home.
CHWC added a second city when they expanded to Pittsburgh, PA. In 1997 the first CHWC tour was established as Detroit, Mobile and Denver were added to the schedule. Catholic HEART Workcamp had surpassed the 1000 camper mark for the first time that year.
This was a monumental year in the growth of CHWC. In 1998 Lisa & Steve were called to move from parish youth ministry into the role as Presidents of CHWC. This change allowed them to devote more time to this growing ministry. This year also was the first year a second team went on the road. This enabled 2 camps to go on at the same time. The number of camps doubled that year as CHWC went into 5 more cities including Phoenix and New Orleans.
Catholic HEART Workcamp hired its first full time employee in addition to Steve and Lisa. Charlotte Nassis became the CHWC office manager (now serving as Chief Production Officer). The number of camps grew to 15 that year with over 3000 campers attending. Also in 1999 the first CHWC promo video was made, and the website heartworkcamp.com was launched.
2003 CHWC moved locations into a 3 room office above the garage of Steve and Lisa’s new home. CHWC now consisted of 3 full time and 2 part time employees. In 2001 CHWC added a third team on the road, now they had 22 camps nationwide. Also this was the year that CHWC went international adding a camp in Jamaica. Catholic HEART Workcamp now has over 5000 campers and is growing each year. CHWC added 2 more fulltime employees making the office team 5 full time employees and 2 part time.
Catholic HEART Workcamp built an office building that is exclusively used for their operations.
CHWC added a fourth team on the road, they now had 32 camps and had 9000 campers participate in that summer. The look of the CHWC Program has changed over the years, as of 2005 we had full lighting systems with intelligent lights, 4 main speakers per team as well as 2 subwoofers and were fully digital with all videos and sound.
CHWC launched an on-line store to continue to sell merchandise throughout the year. Since CHWC began selling merchandise it has donated 100% of all the proceeds made to various charitable organizations. Also in 2008 CHWC vaulted into the digital world by creating a Facebook Fan Page and a Twitter account in attempts to strengthen the CHWC community.
A fifth team of summer staff was added this year, now 5 camps are going on each week of the summer. This year the office staff grew again to 6 full time employees and 3 part time.
The Lord called 11,500 servants to serve across the United States. CHWC added a 6th team on the road.
CHWC again added a team to go on the road, now bringing the total to 7. CHWC had over 12,500 campers at 47 camps across the country and in Jamacia.
CHWC’s vision for the future is clear, to listen closely to the Lord and continue to grow in the direction that God desires, after all, this is God’s creation and we are faithful stewards. We want to continue offering quality service camps, serve people in need, and spiritually enrich the lives of workcamp participants. Most importantly, CHWC wants to provide young people and those served opportunities to experience God’s love in a profound way!