Teen DOVES travel to do good works for others

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The DOVES, a teen service group.

MANASQUAN — Jessica Easton remembers the trepidation, the fear of the unknown and the anxious moments before her first DOVES trip 10 years ago. Ms. Easton, who is now 22, was an eighth grader when it was suggested she go on a service with a group of other girls and a few parents from St. Denis parish on a trip run by the Catholic HEART Work Camp.

The Catholic HEART work camp is a national organization that puts together youth service trips around the country. The first trip that St. Denis parish in Manasquan sent a group was to Buffalo, New York.

Ms. Easton was one of 11 on the trip; she is now a co-leader and director for the trip along with her mom, Ellen. Ms. Easton’s group came up with the name DOVES, which stands for Dedicating Our Values Every Second on that first trip to Buffalo.

The DOVES group has grown from a dozen in a passenger van to around 60 in a full-size charter bus. The DOVES group, which started in 2008 with that trip to Buffalo, will make its 10th trip starting Sunday, July 16.

This year the service trip, which goes from Sunday through Friday, will be to Roanoke, Virginia. Ms. Easton now looks forward to going on the DOVES trip every year and has evolved from a first-time camper to leader.

“I signed up and went on the first trip,’’ she said. “We went in a 12 passenger van all girls. We were the smallest group there. From then on probably the second night it was something I loved and I could not wait for the year after it. I knew I was going to stay around for a while.’’

The DOVES group was in the inspiration of Pat and Maurice Donovan of Manasquan, whose niece had done a service trip. They were looking for something for their daughter Nora.

“As a family we had just moved to Manasquan from living abroad,’’ said Pat Donovan. “We were looking for a way for our family to give back, one of my nieces did a similar trip, but we didn’t have to be a formal church group.’’

The DOVES get split into groups with other youth on Catholic HEART work camps so they are not only working in a new environment, but youth campers from other states.

The DOVES get together every afternoon following their work details, share a meal and attend a program in the evening that often includes faith related music or skits.

“It is really life changing,’’ said Ms. Easton. “It opened my eyes to life outside Manasquan. I love Manasquan, but we live in this bubble you don’t realize things outside especially at a young age. You see how other people live and how lucky you have it.’’

For more on this story, read The Coast Star—on newsstands Thursday or online in our e-Edition.