St. Dominic Parish teens keep busy with stream of service projects
By Ken Downey | Correspondent
The Torch youth ministry group in St. Dominic Parish has been putting in a tremendous amount of community service over the past months. From coat drives and pasta dinners to letter-writing campaigns and helping the homeless, there seems to be no task too small for the Brick parish’s teens.
“I am thankful that I am able to participate in all of these service opportunities,” said Jeffrey Frankenburg, a 13-year-old youth ministry member. “I know that I am very lucky to have what I have, and I like that I can give back while having fun with my friends.”
Most recently, the group has been working with Blessing Bag Brigade NJ on a service project to provide bags of hygiene supplies to the homeless.
“I honestly believe that this project is the most important,” said Giselle Washam, 16. “Doing this project helps me, as well as others, understand that we can make a difference and influence others to do the same. That is the beautiful part of being a member of this group.”
The Blessing Bag Brigade is one of many projects the youth group has participated in since the start of the school year. It follows the annual Easter Egg hunt onnecting the parish’s younger members with the teens to show them what Torch has to offer.
“The kids who are part of the group are always giving their all to do the best that they can,” Washam said.
Indeed, coming off summer break, the group hits the ground running every year, beginning with its October coat drive, where coats, blankets, sleeping bags and other warm items are collected for the homeless. This year, the group collected more than 100 bags of items and distributed them to seven local parishes to serve their homeless communities.
For about a month in the late fall, the group participates in its largest event of the year – the “Giving Tree,” which provides families with gifts for the holidays. For the first two weeks of the event, about 800 tags with requested gifts are placed onto the tree, while the next two weeks, along with the help from the St. Dominic rectory staff, the gifts are bagged for families in need.
“It’s so wonderful for the youth-groupers to see the generosity of our parish, and the kids really get their time to go shopping for kids on our list in our makeshift toy store,” said Karen Wojciak, who serves as the ministry’s co-coordinator alongside Tara Wilson. “People are so truly appreciative for the help we give them.”
There’s also “Breakfast with Santa” in December, where the youth ministry invites children in the community to have fun and breakfast with Santa. In January, the teens host their annual pasta dinner. Seating about 300 people during the course of two dinners, the youth make the night into a real dining experience by serving as waiters and waitresses.
“I get more out of it than the kids do sometimes,” Wojciak said. “I feel this is my chance to be a part of something great. All are welcome in our safe place, where teens can come and feel part of things, discuss their faith, pray together, laugh together and fellowship and support each other.”
That support goes beyond the teens in the group, too. The youth recently wrote letters to the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., hoping they could provide a ray of hope.
“We try and impress on them that the little details can sometimes make all the difference, and you needn’t spend a lot of money to share your time and talent,” Wojciak said.