From washing cars and weeding lawns, to serenading drivers at the Starbucks drive thru; the new SOS (Summer of Service) youth are looking for unique ways to serve the community, free of charge.
Hired by the Bradford Community Church (BCC) through the province's Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Program, the team of youth aged 12 to 22, have been helping residents and businesses with a variety of tasks while looking for fun, simple ways to put a smile on people’s faces.
The group was formed just over a month ago and to date have: picked up garbage from local parks, sang to seniors, handed out notes of encouragement, washed cars, returned grocery carts, handed out flowers while dancing and singing, assisted at the Bradford community gardens, delivered home-baked goods to council and staff at the Town of Bradford’s administrative office, and helped paint and move bricks at the Bradford Baptist Church.
The team has also provided service to A Hand Up Clothing Room and the Out of the Cold Café, as well as local restaurants UniBubble Tea, Hay Carumba, and Poleiro BBQ. They were recently spotted singing at the Starbucks West drive thru while collecting garbage from drivers' vehicles.
“It’s been such a blessing to help out,” says team lead Emma who is one of the oldest members of the team. “We didn’t realize the needs the community had at first… we didn’t know the gravity of it and how much we could do just by doing something little.”
Some group members have been able to assist residents with trips to the grocery store and doctor appointments. One member has even been driving a patient to Southlake Hospital for cancer treatments.
Outside of Bradford, SOS has donated clothing to the Newmarket Salvation Army and helped out at the Tottenham community garden. Most recently, the team visited a horse farm in Brentwood, 'Kuruka’, where they helped clean the stables, fixed fences, brushed and cleaned horses, raked dirt, and moved equipment.
The team also participated in an equine-assisted learning and team building workshop through New Horserizons.
“It was a very long day, very tiring, but very fun!” exclaimed one of the SOS members about the farm experience.
The team admits however, there has been some ‘confusion’ while serving the community – specifically the ‘free’ aspect to all the services.
“People ask us all the time ‘why are you doing all these things and not looking for anything in return?’” says Emma, who answers that the team is simply walking in Jesus’ footsteps of service. “There’s no ulterior motive here, but (people) seem to think there is.”
The group has been offered everything from cash to free food and drinks and gift certificates, and was even offered a $100 bill once, but the youth are adamant all service is free and they will not accept any compensation.
“It’s inspired us to do a lot more for people,” shares Emma. “It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture – giving out flowers, doing the Macarena on the sidewalk, passing out happy notes – it’s amazing how something simple can make a difference in someone’s day.”
The group has daily devotions they call ‘circle time’ every morning before they head out to serve the community, and a debriefing at the end of each day to discuss what went well and what didn’t work.
“Some of them are so young,” says Pastor Cory Kostyr, Interim Pastor at BCC who oversees the SOS group. “It provides them with a sense of teamwork while giving them awareness to go out on their own into the community.”
With only another month of summer left, the group is currently planning a free day camp for kids incorporating crafts, sports, and water play. Pastor Kostyr is also contemplating forming a year-round youth group utilizing the same SOS model.
“The kids are loving this, it’s their best job ever!” reports Pastor Kostyr. “It becomes part of their lifestyle which can go a long way."
“It’s a very fulfilling,” adds Cassy, one of the younger members of the SOS team. “Because we get to see the smiles on people’s faces as well as becoming closer to one another.”
“The best part is, we all have fun and laugh,” says Emma. “The worst part is, we all have fun and laugh.”
To request a service from the SOS team, please contact Pastor Kostyra at [email protected]