News Archives

Community reaps benefit when youth come to town

7/30/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

This report may be used with UMNS coverage of Youth Expo '03, stories #381-385.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Twin sisters Kelly (left) and Megan Jasion from Bridgewater United Methodist Church in Branchburg, N.J., work on an erosion control project at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, Tenn. More than United Methodist youth fanned out across the city to perform service projects during Youth '03, held on the campus of the University of Tennessee. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo number 03-250, Accompanies UMNS #385.


LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Travis Basnett (left) and Bryson Summers from Platt Springs United Methodist Church in West Columbia, S.C., wipe down bunk beds at the Knoxville (Tenn.) Area Rescue Ministries shelter. More than 200 United Methodist youth fanned out across the city to perform service projects during Youth '03, held on the campus of the University of Tennessee. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo number 03-252, Accompanies UMNS #385.


LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Brad Simmerson of Union Grove, N.C., cuts a drainage channel on a hiking trail at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, Tenn. More than 200 United Methodist youth fanned out across the city to perform service projects during Youth 2003, held on the campus of the University of Tennessee. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo number 03-251, Accompanies UMNS #385.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - When 9,000 youth descended on this college town for four days they left behind some grateful citizens who benefited from volunteer work performed by hundreds of the participants over three days.

More than 600 youth spread out all over town cleaning windows, painting walls, digging ditches, visiting children and the elderly, and performing a host of other volunteer jobs.

"The agencies and churches were so happy to get the volunteers, and the youth were excited to have an opportunity to serve the community," said Ashley Garren, who coordinated the mission opportunities across the city.

Garren is a resident of Knoxville and serves as youth and children's director at St. Mark United Methodist Church. She is also a design team member for Youth '03, the international event held July 23-27 by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

"I have a heart for mission, and I am also an organization freak," she said, reflecting on the extensive amount of time and effort that went into sending the youth out to more than 30 locations.

Sixteen-year-old Rebecca Unrue spent an entire day cleaning bunk beds, floors and anything else that needed sprucing up at the Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries.

Unrue, from Platt Springs United Methodist Church in West Columbia, S.C., said she is inspired to do mission work by Matthew 25:30. "'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'

"I think about that scripture, and I come to places like this, and it makes me extra thankful for all God has given me."

Youth were given a choice to go on mission opportunities while others at the event attended workshops.

At the Wesley House, they played with the children in the morning and painted walls in the afternoon. At United Way, they compiled notebooks, which saved the organization from having to hire people to do the work. At the Knoxville Zoo, they conducted "zoo chats" and provided information to the visitors. At the Ijams Nature Center, they cleared a hiking path and dug irrigation ditches.

"It was great to be able to show youth that mission work comes in all different forms," Garren said. "It gives you such a feeling of reward to work for God this way."

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*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer.

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