BRISTOL - The basement of St. Stanislaus Parish was full of laughter, creativity and a sense of community last Thursday night (Jan. 24) for a paint night fundraiser hosted by the the church’s Youth Ministry.
The event was held to raise money for a mission trip this summer to Williamsport, Pa.
According to Debbie Sousa, director of the group, this is the fifth year the ministry has been going on mission trips.
“When we go on the mission trip, the goal is to get them away from their day-to-day lives,” she said.
This means getting kids away from their cell phones, friends at home and all the other distractions that go on each day.
“When you’re on the mission trip, you’re on the mission trip. You’re focused on what you’re doing,” Sousa said.
Teenagers from eighth grade through high school can join the Youth Ministry and get the opportunity to go on a mission trip. Previous trips included New Orleans, the Adirondacks, Tennessee and Brooklyn, New York.
Students are with a small group of their peers and focus on service work all day, then build relationships with each other at night through prayer and worship.
Some of the things they do are landscaping, visiting nursing homes and food pantries, painting, building ramps and putting up drywall in a house.
“It was really hands-on this past year and I think kids like that the best,” Sousa said.
The room was full of people young and old, sharing snacks and wine with their neighbors and following along as an artist from The Studio led them in painting a dark winter sky with a full moon and a snowman.
Fundraisers like this one happen all year to help the group raise the necessary money to go on the trips. From bottle and can drives, to church dinners, car washes and fundraising nights at local restaurants – they’ll be at Wayback Burgers on Feb. 13 – they have just as much fun collecting donations than actually being on the trip.
“They realize how much work it is to get there so that’s part of the process, you build relationships with these kids that you’re eventually going to go on a trip with,” Sousa said “It’s a learning experience for them, not only for their faith but also the real world.”
The Youth Ministry also does a lot of service work within the community and parish, such as delivering items to the food pantry, cooking at Zion Lutheran and cleaning up the church grounds.
“It’s a great opportunity for these kids to practice their faith and share it with other kids and realize that it’s much more than just the church,” Sousa said.
Annalise Pilarski, 11, and Meredith Valley, 13, both became interested in the youth ministry because their older brothers were part of them group.
Although Annalise isn’t quite old enough to be in the Youth Ministry yet, she still goes to all the fundraising events because they’re “fun.”
This will be Meredith’s first time on a mission trip.
“I’m so excited to go. Last year, when they went to Tennessee, they got to build houses, I hope to do that, too,” she said.