By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
As she finished weeding a senior citizen’s yard in East Moline, Ill., Kelsi Scogland smiled as she looked down at the dirt under her nails. “Look, I have a dirt French maincure!” the 14-year-old exclaimed to her fellow volunteers.
Scogland, a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf, was one of 46 Catholic middle-schoolers from Iowa and Illinois participating in the service initiative Just 5 Days during the week of June 16. Though participating in the program was not her idea — her mother signed her up — she found that volunteering alongside her peers was “actually a lot of fun.”
Just 5 Days, a national Catholic hands-on youth mission initiative through the Center of Ministry Development, aims to offer middle-schoolers a week of service, reflection and fellowship. Quad-Cities’ Catholic youth ministers brought the program to the region for the first time this year and intend for it to be a yearly event.
“We are just trying to help them to have a lifelong passion to serve, and we believe it starts young. We help them learn that there is more to being a Catholic than going to Sunday Mass. We are called to serve others,” said Center of Ministry Development program coordinator Susan Searle.
Prior to the students’ arrival, local site coordinators put together a list of homeowners, businesses and not-for-profits in need of volunteers. Participating middle-schoolers were assigned to service groups, and stayed with those groups for the entire week to encourage fellowship with each other and those being served.
One group of middle-schoolers helped the staff at Café on Vine in Davenport to provide free lunches to 125 to 200 people daily. Lauri Jones, kitchen manager, said the kids were a big help to the not-for-profit free lunch café, which relies heavily on volunteer servers. “They are such a nice group of kids and we’ve really enjoyed having them here … You can tell they are having a good time,” she said.
Many of the groups did yard work for the elderly. Some homeowners were parishioners of Sacred Heart in Moline, Ill., and others were participants of the Alternatives for the Older Adult program. Kathy Weiman, CEO of the not-for-profit Alternatives for the Older Adult, was grateful to the kids for helping her clients.
“Our goal is to help them stay in their homes for as long as possible. Things like yard care (can be) hard for them. This was just a great opportunity to get some good yard cleanup done for people who don’t get it done very often,” she said.
During the five-day mission, middle-schoolers worked until about 3 p.m. daily and then went back to their home base of Seton Catholic School and Sacred Heart Church in Moline, Ill. After having time to wash up and relax, they’d reflect on the service done that day and dive into an evening program about Catholic social teaching. The evenings ended with a nightly prayer, and time for fellowship.
“It’s pretty fun,” said Joe Hummell, 14, of St. Mary Parish in West Point. “It’s fun hanging out with new friends and helping people as much as I can.”
The students were joined by adult helpers during the week, including Mike Linnenbrink, youth minister of the Catholic parishes in West Point, Houghton, St. Paul, Fort Madison and Farmington. He brought several students from those parishes to the Quad-Cities to participate.
“It is great to see our kids want to make a difference, and not be afraid to jump right in and go,” he said.