MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

May 4, 2013

Kids do Friday night service

By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Jacob Sellars, a seventh-grader at Alice Robertson Junior High, has a very succinct explanation for his volunteer time at the Gospel Rescue Mission.

“I enjoy it,” he said.

Sellars is part of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America group at AR who prepare and serve meals at the Gospel Rescue Mission on Friday nights. The AR teens arrive every Friday at 4:30 p.m. and stay until roughly 6 p.m., donning food service gloves and hairnets, then handing out plates of food to Muskogee’s homeless community.

Fabiela Kemble, the Family Consumer Science teacher and FCCLA sponsor, said the group could be anywhere on a Friday night, but they choose to serve instead.

“This was totally done by the students,” Kemble said. “They looked up the number, called and got it all set up. They started small with just serving, then made dessert, and then they started making the whole meal at school and serving.”

The youth are learning the progression of character education with their service, as well as communication skills and looking outside of themselves. And when the opportunity first became available, Kemble said they were faced with a rare “good” problem.

“We had more kids than people to be served,” she said. “Every student has enjoyed this. Even students who are suspended will show up here and help out. They feel very passionately about this.”

Some students are even sticking to it after they leave AR and go to different schools.

Former AR student Taylor Morehead is an eighth-grader at Ben Franklin Science Academy and she continues to show up every Friday night, sometimes with a big pan of brownies she makes.

Kemble said the guests at the Gospel Rescue Mission “can’t stop eating them.”

Jack Murr, the director of the Gospel Rescue Mission, said the AR teens are helping the community in more ways than one.

“It gives our staff a break,” Murr said. “It also shows our clients something very valuable. It shows them that someone in our community cares about them.”

Murr also said the Mission’s needs vary from week to week.

“We start with about 30 people towards the beginning of the month,” he said. “Then, we wind up with 50 or so at the end. We have a lot of volunteer opportunities here. Serving meals is the best way to start out, that way you can meet the people we serve here.”

As the students near the end of the school year, athletic activities and field trips have dwindled participation, but at least two teens have shown up every week since the beginning of February. When school lets out for the summer, they will take a brief hiatus from the service project, but pick right back up at the beginning of the school year.  

Kemble said whatever problems the teens are facing when they come in, they all melt away when the food starts being handed out.

“Our focus is to include more young men and women in more outreach in the community,” she said. “We want them to experience empathy outside of themselves and have confidence they can meet other’s needs.”

Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or tsloat@muskogeephoenix.com.