by Mariann Hughes
An enthusiastic crew of 64 high-energy middle-schoolers representing seven churches swarmed the parish center at Most Holy Redeemer church on Normandy Blvd. the week of June 19.
That’s because the church was home-base for Just5Days, a week-long service camp. This nationwide program (held for six years in the Diocese of St. Augustine) combines faith with opportunities for middle-school Catholic youth and their adult leaders from parishes and schools to volunteer at various work sites.
“I feel this a fantastic opportunity for our middle-school youth. There are so few opportunities for young people of this age group. And few agencies are willing to work with them,” said Sharon Tomore, site coordinator from Most Holy Redeemer. “We need to offer opportunities to young people of this age if we want them to live out their baptismal call to discipleship. Give them the experience early on and service, hopefully, will become as natural to them as breathing.”
We spent time talking to some of the kids themselves about their experience and what they thought of their volunteer sites. The thoughtful roundtable conversation showed their deep, kind hearts for service and they are a credit to their families and parishes!
(From left to right)
Faith (age 13) St. Anastasia Parish, St. Augustine Beach. Volunteered at: Teachers Supply Depot
Going to these work sites makes me a lot more appreciative of things I don’t think of as special or things that I don’t even consider … like having a phone or having a full meal every day.
Ethan (age 15) Christ the King Parish, Jacksonville. Volunteered at: St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
We met a lot of people. This one guy, he was an inspiration to me. He told me his story, how he was homeless. We had a long talk. I’ve always wanted to be a journalist … I really want to be out there and let people know what’s going on, so maybe not everyone will be hungry.”
Taylor (age 13) St. Anastasia Parish, St. Augustine Beach. Volunteered at: Teachers Supply Depot
Me and my youth mates went to the Teacher Supply Depot. We cleaned pots and made alphabet tiles for classrooms and we met this group of youth volunteers and we got to talk to them and it was really fun.
Amanda (age 14) Most Holy Redeemer Parish, Jacksonville. Volunteered at: Feeding Northeast Florida Food Bank
At my worksite, they told us, “Just because this is for homeless people doesn’t mean they deserve [lesser quality].” I could tell if this was a bad potato or a bad onion, because I asked myself, “Would I eat this?”
Isabelle (age 13) Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, Ponte Vedra Beach. Volunteered at: City Rescue Mission Thrift Store and CRM New Life Inn
We got to meet so many people and hear all their stories. There was this one man, his name was Bryce and he just turned 18 … it was so inspiring to hear his story. It makes you think you were put there for a reason. God wanted me to hear this story.
Ashton (age 14) St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Orange Park. Volunteered at: Rainbow Workshop of L’Arche House
It’s fun! I liked the place that I was sent, where we go help out with disabled adults and make art and stuff. It’s fun to help out there because all of them are so nice.