Several Springfield nonprofits received a welcome helping hand from more than 130 visitors from an Illinois youth outreach group this week.
More than 80 youths, from eighth-graders to recent high school graduates, and 50 adult volunteers from the program Go and Serve trekked from Naperville, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, to Wittenberg University to aid with a variety of service projects.
They arrived Sunday, staying on campus at Wittenberg, and leave today.
Go and Serve worked at Interfaith Hospitality Network, Project Woman, Perrin Promise, Clark County Developmental Disabilities- Housing Connection, Children’s Rescue Center, Warder Literacy Center, Oesterlen Services for Youth, Promise Neighborhood and Springfield Family YMCA.
Each year since 1971, the program serves a community somewhere in the country, such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Jackson, Miss.
Janet Feller Hyde, a 1971 Wittenberg alumni and member of Knox Presbyterian Church, which sponsors the program, knew of the school’s active community service involvement with its student body and contacted Kristen Collier, Wittenberg’s director of community service, last winter about making Springfield this year’s target.
“It was a bonus to all involved as the youths benefit as they get to explore a different community and there are organizations in our community that need the help,” said Collier.
“Springfield has been very, very welcoming and gracious,” said Pastor Robert Thomas Quiring of Knox Presbyterian Church.
He said the program is for the youths to do community service and build spiritual relationships.
A difference here is the participants pay out-of-pocket for the experience like they would a camp or other trip.
This was 17-year-old Ty Krieger’s first such trip and he enjoyed the hard work and camaraderie. His team built a mobile farm stand for Promise Neighborhood’s Fuller Community Garden.
“Everybody has been nice, and it’s good to see things are going into the community, and people talked about how important this is and what an impact it’s making,” he said.
Another group cleared brush and installed a 100-foot wire fence to be used for therapy animals in at Oesterlen. At the YMCA, picnic tables were built, the indoor track and walls painted and brush cleared. Book shelves for the Literacy Center were also built and a playground and fence were installed at Project Woman.
Following their work, the youths and volunteers gathered for evening meals at Covenant Presbyterian Church and later shared spiritual messages and the day’s experiences.
Brenda Trinkle, business manager at the YMCA, said it was a wonderful surprise having the help and saved jobs the organization would’ve been responsible for doing.
“What they do is what the YMCA is about and likes to promote – collaboration and partnership. It’s been a blessing, and we are thankful for their being here,” she said.
Collier agreed the week was a success for all sides.
“The before and after transformations at these places have been amazing,” she said. “They’ve built a relationship with our community, and we offer a huge thanks all around for this great experience.”