by Veronica D.
It has been an idea in the making for the past couple of years to have a solid youth group in our area. A couple of years ago our community suffered a chain of eleven teen suicides in a row. This past December during Christmas week, a 14 year old hanged himself from the tree in his backyard. Our kids have parents working two jobs trying to keep the lights on. The kids run loose and there is nothing to do except drink, do drugs and have sex.
Judy Graham who is the manager of a local dollar type store approached me about a youth organization. We are a small community and Judy knows most of the families and the kids. The kids have nothing to do so they frequent the store and shop lifting is a big problem. Plus she does get to know everyone and the deaths were devastating to her because she would see the kids almost every day and knows them all by name. I told her my church had been trying to get a youth group going. I threw some ideas on the table during an administrative council meeting but my church is mainly the retired, aging group (I’m right there myself) and nothing evolved. I explained to my pastor that while I am not leaving my parish, I must go where there IS a youth group and made an appointment to visit with a pastor of another local church, Pastor Linda Schultz. Immanuel Lutheran Church has a small but active youth group. Pastor Linda is ecstatic about the ideas Judy and I have. A meeting was arranged with the people on her church council. From there another meeting was scheduled as people in the community began to hear that the group was really going to take form. A very brilliant high school student was included and we asked for his input. He suggested it be a COMMUNITY group as some kids may not come if it was a ‘churchy’ thing and we all agreed. Churches will have (additional) events for the group and those wishing to attend the extra events may go if they desire. But the main focus will be on the community.
I have been trying very hard to start a Community Harvest program and Pastor Linda’s excitement was overwhelming for me. She shares my enthusiasm for permaculture and has agreed to start the Community Harvest on the church property. We will plant fruit trees and have garden plots instead of paying someone to mow inedible grass. This will be incorporated into the community youth project so we can teach young people how to garden, harvest rain water, properly prune trees for optimum production plus how to can and dehydrate for storage. Anyone in the community will be welcome to learn and also encouraged to become a member of Community Harvest by planting food in their own yards and donating a portion to their harvests to our local food pantry which often runs out of supplies since the demand is so much higher than ever before. A friend of mine is willing to discuss raising free range chickens and how to have a small scale chicken operation. For people who live in apartments, we will teach the art of window gardening.
The youth organization will teach self sustainability skills. Girls need to know how to change a flat tire. Boys need to know how to fry an egg. Basic skills parents once handed down to their children have been lost due to our financial crunch. The community group will give parents an opportunity to help with activities but not feel over whelmed by it all since they have to spend the majority of their time at their jobs and are exhausted. It’s not that they don’t want to be good parents but the dire status of the financial situations most families are faced with cause them to be gone from the home far more than they wish to be.
Our mayor will be attending our next meeting as well as the librarian, two teachers, the school nurse, a fireman, two daycare operators and many more. Word is spreading quickly that the group is actually going to take shape and the ideas are pouring in, as are the people who can really help bring it all together. I am an artist (my specialty is airbrushing) so I will teach art. We have a vocalist who will work with anyone interested in music. There is a mechanic willing to give some simple how to clinics. The school system has agreed that Wednesdays will be a “sports free” day (ie: no sporting events or practices on Wednesdays) to make sure kids can attend the group meetings. Meetings will be held in various places such as the library, fire station, a rental hall, and more. My church has an awesome game room with pool tables, foosball tables, a basketball table and much more plus a kitchen. The list of meeting places goes on.
There will be homework helpers and a ‘hotline’ for kids to call a mentor if they’re feeling threatened at home or bullied by other kids.
Our first rule will be The Golden Rule.
We also plan to approach our two local colleges to request students who are planning on going into teaching or other child related fields to offer their time and knowledge. College credit can be arranged as well as a certificate given for their volunteer services which will be a good addition to their resume.
Our goal is healthy minds, bodies and spirits. Giving our youth the skills they need to grow their own food, have life skills plus have positive self esteems is essential for the future. It only stands to reason that the adults involved will evolve in knowledge as well. It’s a win/win.