A group of Brainerd area youths prepared a spaghetti dinner for about 180 people Friday night at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Brainerd, a benefit they decided to host to raise funds for Heartland Animal Rescue Team.
The 15 young people, ages 11-18, are Lutheran Social Service youth service workers who receive support through LSS Youth Services. For three hours a day, five days a week they attend asset- and strengths-based programming to empower them to become successful in life. One aspect of the program is community service.
Rob Metcalfe, coordinator for the LSS Youth Resiliency Program, said the youths decided themselves to host a benefit to raise money for a nonprofit organization. Since many of them had volunteered at HART before, they wanted the funds raised to go to the animal shelter.
Maria Essman (left), a Lutheran Social Service Youth Resiliency Program staff member, made a large bowl of salad with 14-year-old Kayla, an LSS youth service worker. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
The youths appeared before Brainerd Youth As Resources and presented their idea to the board, where they received funds to pay for the cake and beverages served at Friday's benefit. Metcalfe said the event provided the young people the opportunity to work on their social skills, independent living and team-building skills. It also was a way to build self-confidence.
The teens hope to host another fund-raiser next year but likely for another charitable organization.
"What a wonderful thing," said Linda Turpin, HART executive director. "And the spaghetti is great."
"We wanted to save money for the animal shelter," said 14-year-old Kayla. "It feels really great because I'm helping the animals."
"It's fun," added 13-year-old Michael, who performed a variety of duties. Every youth had a job and a position at Friday's benefit. They were assigned jobs as runners, servers, assistant managers and managers. About 10 adults, including several LSS staff members, helped with the event.
Cheyanne, 15, said the benefit gave her the opportunity to communicate with others, much like a person would do in a real job.
"It's helping build me up for what I want to do when I get a job," said Cheyanne. "I can communicate with people and get to know people."
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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