WEST LONG BRANCH: The Jersey Shore is a magnet to many youth once school lets out. Many come for our beaches; others come to “Restore the Shore."
Last week the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in West Long Branch (http://www.reformationwlb.org ) is hosting two groups of church youth and their chaperones who are volunteering to do Sandy Relief from June 15-21.
Eight volunteers, five high school students and three adults, rode in their appropriately decorated van over 450 miles from the First Congregational Church of Tallmadge, Ohio (www.fcctallmadge.org) to West Long Branch. Every year their church goes on two missions; an adult mission performed local to their church and a youth mission whose location is chosen by the youth. When she heard about the opportunity to help with Superstorm Sandy relief, Jacqueline Brown thought, “I had never been to New Jersey”.
Brandon Conley stated, “I just thought Sandy relief sounded cool.”
They worked with A Future With Hope (http://www.afuturewithhope.org) and were assigned work tiling three condos in Long Branch. Only the adults had tiled before, so the youth learned skills on the job.
“It was a huge learning experience,” said Sarah Spiecher.
Rural Retreat Lutheran Parish of Rural Retreat, VA (http://ruralretreatlutheranparish.org), sent nine volunteers, five teenage youth and four adults including their pastor, pastoral intern and a retired pastor who travelled approximately 530 miles. The parish sponsors a mission trip every year, once travelling to Montana. The mission trip was open to two local parishes (four churches). It was some of their youth who answered the call for volunteers. The Rural Retreat worked through Lutheran Social Ministries of NJ who connected them with the Lutheran Church of the Reformation and A Future With Hope. New Jersey law prohibits anyone under the age of 14 from working on a construction site, so the four youngest plus Beth Hawk, their seminary intern, volunteered at St. Mark’s Center for Community Renewal, Keansburg, NJ (http://stmarkskeansburg.org).
They helped serve breakfast and lunch and sorted clothing for homeless and those still suffering the after-effects of Superstorm Sandy. Beth Hawk commented that at the Center, “some of the volunteers were those who were affected by the storm. They appreciated the help.”
She was amazed at their positive attitudes and how they would state “God is good” after all they had been through. The remainder of the Virginian volunteers worked through A Future With Hope tiling a home in Highlands and another in Long Branch. They were surprised to see some homes still just bare studs.
The volunteers found that their work not only benefitted the recipients of their labor, but they were changed by the experience. Rural Retreat Parish teenager, Lilly Caudill, proudly stated, “I felt most of my life I have been a taker but coming to New Jersey I was able give to those who needed help.”