All Saints’ Episcopal Church Torresdale, 9601 Frankford Ave., welcomed YouthWorks’ Christian-based teen ministry teams throughout June and July.
The high school and middle school students came from across the country to work with local food-support organizations by day, then worshiping and spending their nights in sleeping bags at All Saints’.
Each Sunday, a new crew arrived to begin a week of service to the community.
“Food insecurity is a big issue in the city,” said the Rev. Jay Walton, rector at All Saints’.
Symphony Carolino, a college student at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, is a ministry support coordinator who accompanies the teenagers on visits to community gardens. All gain a new perspective, she believes.
“It’s a really good educational and spiritual experience for them,” she said.
Talia Olson, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is the site director, welcoming 20 to 50 teenagers each week. Last week’s cohort was so big that some had to stay at Holy Innocents St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Tacony.
Olson explained that the young people work at service partner locations from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“We want it to be an interactive experience, not a vacation,” she said. “It’s a mission trip experience.”
Olson said some of the locations they visited were MANNA, a family shelter and an urban farm in Chester. She worked closely with community service coordinator Bryanna Trulove, a Mississippi State graduate pursuing her master’s at Dallas Baptist University.
Olson and Trulove said the teenagers – who must adhere to strict cell phone policies – gave the summer mission trip very high marks on evaluation forms.
“We have been really lucky. It’s been super impactful,” Olson said.
Trulove said the teens learned many skills, including ones related to cooking, and can continue their mission at home even though their week’s work is over.
“They really leave here equipped and stronger for when they go back home,” she said. “It’s really encouraging to see them hesitant to jump in at first to become pros.”
Each Wednesday featured a cookout in the All Saints’ parking lot, with the teens playing games such as cornhole and Four Square Volleyball on the lawn. Walton arranged a water ice truck to give the out-of-towners a chance to taste the Philadelphia favorite for the first time. Starbucks helped sponsor last week’s final feast.
Though the daily visits to service partner locations were the most important part of the trip, the young people had plenty of other opportunities during free time. Some watched movies and visited the Philadelphia Zoo, Independence Mall, the Liberty Bell, the Rocky statue, Magic Gardens, Penn’s Landing and various cheesesteak shops. ••