Kids giving back

Krystle Wagner • Nov 10, 2017 at 2:00 PM

SPRING LAKE — The St. Mary’s Catholic Church food pantry bustled with activity this week as teenagers sorted the stock.

From stuffing mix and cranberry sauce to instant potatoes and turkeys, students involved with St. Mary’s Youth Ministries sorted donations from their Thanksgiving food drive for local families.

The food drive is one of the ways the group is giving back and keeping alive the connection to God and their faith that they made during this year’s mission trip, said Spring Lake Middle School eighth-grader Meah Bajt.

In July, more than 85 students and adults from the Spring Lake church participated in the 2017 Alive in You event in Wisconsin, where they took part in service projects and delved deeper in their faith.

When the group returned from the trip, they discussed ways they can remember how they felt during the mission and ways they can continue to stay connected to God and serve the community, Bajt said. 

Last week, the group volunteered and helped community members during a food truck event, said Spring Lake Middle School eighth-grader Anna Bisacky. Students helped fellow community members select food and carry boxes to their vehicles. Chris Iwan, coordinator of middle school and high school youth ministry for St. Mary’s Catholic Church, said the students helped community members receive not only food, but also attention that everyone deserves.

Beginning next week, the group will partner with Muskegon Public Schools and the United Way of the Lakeshore’s Retired & Senior Volunteer Program for The Little Red Writers Novel Program. Through the program, Muskegon elementary school students will write and illustrate, with the end goal of publishing their own book.

“This will give them a sense of accomplishment as they see their book on the shelf of bookstores for years to come,” Iwan said. “In turn, we pray that they become passionate about reading and writing, giving them a chance at a very successful future.”

Iwan said that he prayed that several youth at St. Mary’s would volunteer to participate in the mentoring, and more than 35 people signed up.

Having helped communities in Wisconsin during the mission trip, Muskegon Catholic Central senior Vinne Lytle said it’s nice carrying over their passion to serve by giving back and helping locally.

More than 120 students and adults from St. Mary’s plan to attend the 2018 Alive in You event in St. Louis, Missouri.

Since the first mission trip two years ago with 40 students, Iwan said that serving has becoming contagious among the parish’s youth, which he attributes to the group’s first mission trip to Milwaukee. While painting at inner-city Catholic schools, the St. Mary’s group met students of the school and formed friendships. Iwan said the school’s principal told him that the attention they showed his students would have a long-lasting impact.

As the group prepares for next summer’s conference and camp, Spring Lake High School sophomore Julia Bajt asked that the community pray for them.

“I’m excited for the next mission trip,” Meah Bajt added. “I know we’re going to help them and impact their lives a lot.”

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