For the kids at King Moravian Church the hot summer days are about much more than being out of school and playing with their friends.
For them, summer is time to help in their community as part of the church’s We Serve Wednesday’s program.
King Moravian Church Director of Christian Education Paula Hall said the program initially started as a response to mission trips the kids went on in western North Carolina.
“The kids came back and said ‘if we can can do this in Ashe and Allegheny counties why can’t we do this here?’” she said, noting that as a result the church started a week-long summer mission program in the King area. “This year we decided to do something a little different. We spread it out over the month of July on Wednesdays to give everybody a chance to serve.”
That plan has worked, attracting close to 30 middle and high school children to the program every Wednesday. So far the kids have helped a widow in Winston-Salem get her house ready to go on the market, helped an elderly Westfield woman get her trailer in order and volunteered at the Second Harvest Food Bank, which supplies food to all of Stokes County’s food pantries. In the final week of July they planned to help rangers maintain trails at Hanging Rock State Park.
“I have been pretty amazed at what the kids can do,” said Hall. “The first day we were stumped with shrubbery that was all overgrown. We had these 12-year-old guys there with shovels and in a matter of 30 minutes these six huge shrubs were dug out with nothing but shovels and manpower.”
Hall said the students not only get a chance to help in the community but learn some valuable life lessons along the way. She used the first project, helping a widow with a two-year-old son, as an example.
“Her husband had died unexpectedly from a drug overdose and no one had any idea he was using,” said Hall. “She was trying to sell her home and she just did not have it in her to work on it. We went in to that home and the kids knew the older daughter had special needs and had passed away a couple of years ago and would have been their age now. We knew the dad of this white -collar family had a secret that no one else knew about that ultimately cost him his life. So we talked about what that meant and if you passed today what do you have that people don’t know about and what does that mean for the people you leave behind?
“The sister also talked to them about the effects of drug abuse and that was so powerful when they know they are working in the house where someone died from an overdose,” she added. “It did not match their image of the face of drug use.”
“It was kind of scary,” said Anastasia Tuttle, one of the kids volunteering. “But knowing you helped someone means a lot. I am doing this to get closer with my youth group and to help people during the summer when I have nothing else to do but sit at home. I have been surprised by how well we all work together and how we accomplish a lot of stuff in just a few hours.”
Last week the kids sorted 6,877 pounds of food, 5,482 pounds of drinks, 591 pounds of household items, 1,048 pounds of snacks and threw out 2,383 pounds of trash at the Second Harvest Food Bank.
“In the process we learned how local food pantries stock their shelves, how great the need for food is in our communities, how long food items last after their expiration dates, and how much food goes to waste because of damaged packaging or spoilage even with great efforts to share it all,” said Hall. “It is great for them to know where the food is coming from when they help at King Outreach Ministries.”
Second Harvest Food Bank Volunteer Data Bank Manager Harriet Rhodes said the work the group provided was a big help to their operations.
“It is a huge help,” she said. “We only have 50 to 55 staff and we are out doing presentations and educating people about hunger. For a group this large to come in today, it is really important for us to have that help. We sometimes get a crisis of volunteers and do not have enough to work the product. The food can be in here but if it is not getting worked properly then we cannot get it out to the agencies. What they are doing here today is amazing and it will help us out a lot.”
Sophie Jennings, another of the youth volunteers, said she had really enjoyed spending time during the summer helping others.
“You get to go out and see the people that are not as fortunate as you and it opens your mind to what it could be like,” she said. “I have so much and a lot of times I am not really grateful for that and I always seem to want something else. Then we go to help these people in their homes and it is like they have nothing and it makes you so thankful for what you have.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.