Baptist youth happy to improve smiles
Helping others is nothing new for high school students in the "High Adventure Class" at De Soto Baptist Church.
"We've always just done this stuff," said 17-year-old member Lucas Walker, ticking off a list of fund-raisers, improvement projects and service stints the group performed during the past year. "We never really think about it. We just do it."
In addition to providing local helping hands, the youths' latest project was completed this week, when they sent boxes full of "help" to an area dental student completing her residency in an impoverished part of New Mexico.
In a Christmastime phone conversation with Anita Woywod, mother of 16-year-old youth group member Matt Woywod, former church member and Eudora resident Wendy Harless described some of the challenges of serving her new community.
"The adults, because they have no money, were just coming in with these terrible teeth problems," Woywod recounted.
And the children, also in need of dental care, didn't have any fun incentives like most children were accustomed to in better-off areas.
Harless saved up McDonald's Happy Meal toys and dug deep into her own purse for Tylenol to give to grown-ups with aching teeth who couldn't afford even generic over-the-counter medication. But it wasn't long before Harless' own stock ran out, and she couldn't buy enough to fill the void, Woywod said.
That's where the De Soto youth stepped in.
"The kids' Sunday school class just took it over and ran with it," Woywod said. "The kids made an announcement in church one Sunday that they wanted to take this on as a mission project."
Three Sundays later, members of the congregation had donated more than 700 Beanie Babies, hundreds of doses of Tylenol and about $500 to boot.
This week, youth boxed the supplies, taped them tightly and shipped them to Harless, who won't find out about the drive until she receives the packages by mail, Woywod said.
Mary Etta Copeland teaches the "High Adventure" class and said community service was part of the curriculum. She said the goal was for students to apply Scripture messages to real-life situations.
"We're trying to put faith into action," she said. "In other words, put faith behind your words."
In another project, after hurricanes ravaged Florida in September, the youth group sprung into action.
They set up an after-church cookout and auction -- for which youth offered services like snow shoveling, babysitting, baking or housework to the highest bidder.
Copeland said that event raised $1,600, which was promptly sent to Florida through the American Baptist emergency relief fund.
Walker said for a congregation of about 400, Baptist church members had been more than generous, making the Toys and Tylenol project, for one, a success.
"It was pretty easy because we just asked anyone if they had any extra toys to send down," he said. "Considering our size, we give out a lot."
The group's next undertaking will be a Sunrise Service breakfast on Easter morning. Youth will serve a hearty breakfast for donations following the Baptist Church's Sunrise Service, scheduled for 8 a.m. March 27.
For more information on "High Adventure" projects or to contribute to Harless' dental drive, e-mail Woywod at email@example.com.