Youth Buy the Farm and Double Their Impact

For the past few years, the children and youth at Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in Rock Springs, Wyoming, have headed up a special Sunday service and spaghetti lunch. The day is an opportunity for them to both serve their church and give back to the larger community. At the most recent event, the youths’ determination and enthusiasm inspired their small church community in a big way. And with some planning, they were able to multiply their impact and reach more people in need worldwide.

Clay, a high school junior and member of the group , explained that an important part of the project is selecting an organization to receive the offering. This year, they chose to support a family in need through Episcopal Relief & Development’s Gifts for Life catalog. And they made sure to time everything so their gift would qualify for the organization’s 2011 Matching Gift Challenge in November.

Guided by Sunday school teacher Merilyn Dykes and youth leader Max Mickelson, the dozen youth and children planned their event. They set their sights on raising enough money to buy a duck or goose, or possibly even a flock of chickens, all of which produce eggs and offspring that provide people with better nutrition and extra income. The young people also began contributing their own funds toward the goal. The night before the service, they gathered to prepare the spaghetti lunch and rehearse.

The next morning, the young people presented the entire service, leading the readings, music and prayers. In place of the sermon, Clay shared reflections on his life-changing experience attending the Episcopal Youth Event, a triennial Church-wide gathering of youth held last June. Eight-year-old Tasha then made the “big ask,” sharing about the group’s mission of purchasing a life-changing gift and requesting congregation members to add to the offering jar. Following the service, as parishioners enjoyed the fellowship and delicious pasta, the group thanked everyone for participating in the project and reminded them once again about the goal.

After the event, they counted the offering jar contents. The total was not the $135 needed for chickens. Along with a matching donation from Eileen’s Attic Episcopal Thrift Shop, the gifts came to $1,460.

“We didn’t expect to make nearly as much as we did!” Clay said. Thinking back to the previous year, he thought that this time around, more people were aware of the event’s purpose and were willing to help out. Plus, he said, “It’s a good group of kids.” Sandy Caldwell, Clay’s mom and the church treasurer, agreed – these youth in particular, she noted, were “very motivated” to make a difference, and even more excited that “people were so interested in what they were doing.”

As the youth discussed what to do with the funds, they realized they could now afford an entire animal farm: a cow, goat, ox and plow to help a family grow more crops and earn a livelihood. And by making the purchase before the Matching Gift deadline, the young people doubled their gift’s value – all gifts made through November 30 were matched dollar for dollar by special donors. (The matched portion of each gift supported Episcopal Relief & Development’s Global Needs Fund, whose funds are used where most needed around the world.)

“We are all so very proud of these dedicated youth!” wrote Bernadine Craft, Holy Communion’s Senior Warden, in a church newsletter article. “This small group of youngsters, committed totally to their cause and working hard to help those less fortunate, inspired us all as we watched them succeed far beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.”

“I’m continually amazed at how Gifts for Life can stir young people to share their time and resources and make a difference,” said Judy Sawler, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Manager of Direct Marketing. “Thanks to the youth at Church of the Holy Communion, this generous gift will enable a family in poverty to have more food, gain extra income and have a better life.”

 Photos courtesy of Sandy Caldwell and Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion.