By RACHAEL OSBORNE
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Youth at First Presbyterian Church of Plattsburgh learn early on the importance of helping others in need.
Opportunities to go on mission trips — near and away — come up frequently. Students may serve meals, help at food shelves, visit with the elderly, weed yards, paint fences, bake apple pies, read to a neighbor ...
“It’s important to see that the world is bigger than ourselves,” said Marianne Wilson, the church’s Youth and Family Ministry director. “I tell the kids that we didn’t see Jesus always in the church. Jesus was out in the world with the people, and many times he asked us to be the ones doing the work.”
During winter break in February, 15 youth and five adults from the church traveled to Washington, D.C., to help with several feeding projects. Memories from the trip, which is offered every other year, are still fresh in students’ minds.
“Going to Washington, D.C., was a real eye opener,” 15-year-old Andrew Baker said.
For him, one of the saddest realizations was seeing the same people in the same condition that they were in when he was there two years prior.
“You see a lot of things like that — people sleeping on the streets, people begging for money,” the Beekmantown Central School student said.
“I think it really just made us feel grateful for what we have,” Andrew’s sister, Amber Baker, said.
Serving meals one evening to homeless women and children at an organization called Thrive DC was a highlight for Amber.
“A couple of the homeless women there who stayed later ... helped put everything back (tables and chairs). And then a couple of them were talking with us, and they were taking turns singing,” the 17-year-old said.
“One woman was singing these deep soul songs with the idea of ‘Don’t give up.’ It was really cool. They were grateful that we were there.”
The trip got Kaley DuBrey, a ninth-grader at Peru Central School, thinking about how she can help the community back home.
“We’re so caught up in getting new clothes and all that stuff that we don’t really realize there’s people that don’t even know where they’re going to find food, and it’s just nice to give back to the community,” she said.
HELPING AT HOME
Local missions to the Interfaith Food Shelf or the community garden are geared toward the younger children — usually starting around third grade.
“Last year, they did a bike trip out to Lake Forest (Senior Living) and visited the residents out there. We had a child learning how to ride a bike up and down the hall here in preparation,” the Rev. Kathleen Crighton, pastor, said with a laugh.
Marianne said the older teens are encouraged to serve as role models for the younger children.
Other missions include a biennial outreach where students help with housing projects; the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, which is coming up next in July at Purdue University in Indiana; and filling shoe boxes with gifts for needy children through Operation Christmas Child.
The church is holding a Service Auction at 5:30 p.m. Saturday to raise money for future mission projects. The event starts with a potluck dinner.
The fundraising idea was born five years ago when the economy began to look grim.
“We needed a new way to fundraise without strapping people for more cash, and we started to talk about how we all have gifts and services that we could do for each other,” Marianne said.
“I was amazed how quickly ideas came out that people could do.”
This year’s services include garden advice, genealogy help, dulcimer lessons, handmade cards with poetry, computer help, a day at Silver Lake, babysitting, help from a handyman and nearly 40 more offerings.
Big-ticket items include the popular “Afternoon Tea in the Garden” event as well as the first-ever “Summer Solstice Party” to be hosted by Marianne.
The fundraiser has become a way for congregants to better know their neighbors and church family — and to support a good cause.
One year, Marianne won a lesson in canning beets.
“And while we’re canning beets, I’m learning about all the different people that are in the class with me.”
“Just the idea of us all getting together and offering different services and stuff, I think it’s awesome,” said Amber, who will be making the cards with poetry.
“Everybody has such a good time,” said Janora Stone, the auctioneer. “It’s for a very good cause. We want to raise as much as we can for the youth.”
Crighton said it’s been a joy to serve the Plattsburgh congregation for the past three years.
“So many churches turn in on themselves and don’t understand they’re not here for themselves, they’re here to serve the world. This church has always had that focus, from way back when they were helping people on the Underground Railroad escape to Canada,” she said.
“It’s always been part of the core fabric of this church, and it’s wonderful to see.”
Email Rachael Osborne:firstname.lastname@example.orgIF YOU GO WHAT: Fifth-annual Service Auction to benefit youth mission projects. WHEN: Potluck starts promptly at 5:30 p.m. Bring a dish to share. For auction only, come by 6 p.m. to register, get a number and find a seat. All are welcome to attend. WHERE: Fellowship Hall at First Presbyterian Church of Plattsburgh, 34 Brinkerhoff St. CONTACT: Call 561-3140. For a complete list of auction items, visit www.presbyplatt.org.