Youth launch hunger relief ministry, serve others

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Youth launch hunger relief ministry, serve others

Nov. 8, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0571}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

Middle school campers attending this year's summer camps at the Warren W. Willis Youth Camp in Fruitland Park prepare flood buckets as part of the camp program's efforts to help campers become more aware of the needs of others and take action. Photo by Heather Pancoast, Photo #06-462.

While renewing their own hearts and minds in Christ youth attending the Florida Conference’s recent summer camps at the Warren W. Willis Youth Camp in Fruitland Park also found ways to change the world around them for the better.

A hunger and poverty seminar offered during the camp experience proved life-changing for four high school girls from Orange Park United Methodist Church.
Emily Young, Katie Eckhardt, Jacqueline Nye and Morven Piers decided they would do something about hunger relief after returning home from camp and launched a ministry called “Hungry 2 Serve.”

“It was clear that they’d had a good time together, and it also became clear that they had really been moved and this whole notion of justice had really hit them in a very powerful way,” said the Rev. LeeAnn Inman, senior pastor of the church.

The teens decided to begin by educating members of their congregation about hunger issues, as well as raising funds in the process.

“We made a … year plan, but the main thing we wanted to do was raise awareness first,” Nye said. “We did a benefit lunch and dinner.”

The teens prepared the food themselves, with help from their parents. Tickets cost $5 or whatever donation people wanted to give. In all, the mid-September event raised a profit of $1,100. Several youth group members gave their “birthday money” to the cause. The teens gave a speech at the event.

“During our speech, we had one of our friends … he hit a drum every five seconds because a child dies every five seconds (from hunger),” Nye said.

The money will be given to help hungry children in Asia because that was the location the teens felt led to help after summer camp, Nye said. And the group plans more fund-raising efforts in the next several months.

Inman said the congregation has been very receptive to the teens’ efforts.

“I thought that the whole idea of “Hungry 2 Serve” (shows) that they began to sense their own hunger because they began to sense that we’re talking about people who were really hungry like they’ve never been,” Inman said.

Inspired to serve
The workshop the girls attended was one of four to six offered to high school campers. The others focused on child slavery and child soldiers, racism and class-ism, health care, and hunger and poverty and the environment.

Inspired by the weekly “social justice and serving others” workshops, both middle and high school students took action in areas of need, according to Mike Standifer, camp director.

Before leaving camp middle school youth had assembled 136 flood buckets for use in the Florida Conference, with churches donating the supplies or money for supplies.

Ninety-six buckets were given to the conference’s storm recovery depot in Madison, Fla., and 40 were donated to the Atlantic Central District for use as needed in South Florida. All buckets followed specifications designated by the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

“We also did some teaching about being involved in human relief efforts … we showed video and showed some images about Hurricane Katrina and answered questions,” said Heather Pancoast, assistant camp director. “The kids really responded to the questions and information.”

“Before you knew it, we had churches from all over the state calling us saying they wanted to help,” Pancoast added. “Throughout the course of the summer we probably had 15 or 20 churches that donated or helped with the effort.”

A volunteer at the Florida Conference storm recovery depot in Madison unloads flood buckets decorated and assembled by middle school campers at this year's conference summer camps. Photo by Heather Pancoast, Photo #06-463.

With the guidance of middle school team leader Ryan Fields, the students assembled and decorated the buckets with Scripture messages each Thursday of the nine summer camp weeks. The students also prayed over each bucket.

“That was very fun,” said Courtney Crump, a sixth-grader from First United Methodist Church in DeLand. “I thought it was a cool way to help. We got to draw on them and tell people that everybody was going to be OK.”

Even children’s campers in fourth and fifth grades had an opportunity to care for others, according to Standifer. They made “dirt” for the high school campers — chocolate pudding, Oreos and Gummy Worms all mixed together.

Fields, who has served as the middle school team leader for the past three summers, hopes that future camp service projects will be based on this model. “Every week it was the activity that I looked forward to the most, as far as being able to see the campers being able to make this crucial connection that they needed to make.”


This article relates to Church and Society.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.

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