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'Awesome kids': Bradford church begins 'summer of service'

'This is a type of outreach and we want to serve the community the best way we can,' official says of eight-week Summer of Service program started by 16 local young people

A group of 16 young people recently began a Summer of Service (SOS) to the community through the Bradford Community Church.

The eight-week program is principally funded by the Canada Summer Jobs program and is in its third year.

Isobel Gauthier is a team lead and has been part of the program since it began.

“We want to serve other people because that is how communities work. We need one another. We all need one another, and if we don't do anything about it then nothing is going to happen,” Gauthier said.

Her sister, Cassandra, is also in her third year with the program and spoke of spreading God’s love through the action of doing things for the community at large and for individuals in the Bradford area.

“We have done all kinds of things: pick up garbage, play live music and sing at the Starbucks drive-through, paint, and move things for people," Cassandra said

Pastor Cory Kostyra explained that the participants in the program are broken into small teams with a leader and they discuss possible projects and choose what they are going to do. He said some have been involved in the church project for people experiencing homelessness, helped at retirement homes, and given a hand to those who live alone and in need. Sometimes, someone knows of a person or a situation where help is needed.

“They are given a couple of projects that are already set up and then they are also responsible for coming up with some of their own projects," Kostyra said.

He explained also that it doesn’t take much sometimes to make a difference even if it’s changing someone’s mood and generating a smile by singing on the street corner or at Starbucks. The participants are out there to make a difference, and do not accept any money when they are out in public in this manner.

This year, the team leads met with Mayor James Leduc to discuss where he feels there is a need, and where and in what way SOS may be able to fill that need.

“At the start it was it was us reaching out to people and being like ‘hey can we help you,’ but then slowly last year a few were like ‘hey we heard about you, are you able to help us?’” Kers said.

Each of the Gauthier sisters and Kers, talked about helping the community outside the SOS group and also those within it, especially those who are younger.

“Ben and I are teammates so we’re going to be in charge of four or five kids, maybe more than that some days," said Isobel. "And we're going to be watching them grow and facilitating growth in their relationships with each other, with us, with people in the church, and with people in the community. “

The SOS project is unique to Bradford Community Church and initiated by Pastor Cory Kostyra. Several of the young people involved in the program in previous years have returned. He said, “They’re all awesome kids.”

The pastor explained that the Canada Summer Jobs program provides for 11 people between the ages of 15 and 29. This year there were 16 applicants, so he spoke to another church who sponsored one of those positions and otherwise managed to get funding so all 16 could be part of the paid program.

There are also four volunteers under 15 making a total of 20 students. The participants have SOS t-shirts and name tags to identify them in the community. They receive some training and spend part of the day as a group before setting off on their projects.

Emma Kostrya is the director of the SOS program. She plans the days activities, facilitates what jobs SOS does, and manages and assigns teams. She also encourages participants to come up with their own ideas on how to help out in the community, and then helps make those ideas become realities.

"This is a type of outreach and we want to serve the community the best way we can,” she said.

If you are a person, or persons, in need you may email Emma with SOS assistance in the subject heading.

Is there a local youth who is making a difference in our community who you think we should profile in this space? If so, please send your idea, with contact information, to [email protected]