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St. Mary’s Youth Group participates in volunteer experience

SOLON– Eighteen teens from St Mary’s Youth Group participated in a week-long opportunity to serve the less fortunate. The unique volunteer experience, provided by Franciscans for The Poor in Cincinnati, Ohio, allowed the teens to share of their time and talents. After accompanying a local youth group from the Riverside area last summer, Andrew Barenz was excited to return with a group from his own parish this year.  The teens lived simply in a community setting and spent their days at various service projects including working with the Cincinnati Housing Project, providing sandwiches to the homeless, cleaning and preparing apartments for the homeless to live in, working in a food pantry, and visiting with physically and mentally disabled individuals.
One of the highlights was listening to a formerly homeless man share his story. He explained how he became homeless, what it was like to sleep under bridges, how hurtful it was to be ignored by others, and how he had nowhere to go to clean up in preparation for job interviews until someone finally gave him a chance. He explained that simple measures like looking homeless people in the eye, smiling, or acknowledging them shows the compassion that they desperately need, and can make a world of difference in their day.
The teens shared the following comments about the trip: “It made me step out of my comfort zone, but it was worth it.” “It really opened my eyes, I understand we need to help.” “The opportunity to interact and relate with strangers from different backgrounds was a learning experience and a privilege.” “I realized how much we take for granted and how blessed we are.”  The teens now look forward to serving the poor locally.
The teens included: Lauren Benzing, Jessica Brimeyer, Devin DeNeve, Brian Haight, Corri Goldsmith, Reagan Johnson, Hillary Kaefring, Marshall Keith, Holly Koffron, Claudi Kotter, Ryan Kunkel, Austin Miller, Kylan Patterson, Paul Pisarik, Jill Prentice, Rory Siddell, Lucas Schwartz, and Andrew Barenz.