Young volunteers flood Mon-Yough with service

| Friday, July 12, 2013, 10:21 a.m.

Amid the showers that flooded much of the Mon-Yough area this week was a shower of blessings from 50 youth and 20 adult volunteers.

“This is the largest group we have had so far,” said Deacon Amy Santoriello, a primary organizer of the third annual Mission on the Mon.

Santoriello is a deacon at Faith Lutheran Church in White Oak, which sponsors the mission along with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Participants represented 18 Lutheran congregations, 15 in the synod and one each from Indiana, Pa.; Warren, Ohio; and Farmington Hills, Mich.

“Our pastor grew up here,” said Kristin Boris of Hope Lutheran Church of Farmington Hills, a Detroit suburb, where the Rev. Lauren Miller is associate pastor for discipleship ministries.

“She said it is her favorite town and a good place to share God's love with other people,” Kristin said. “She wanted us to experience it.”

The participants camped out at Faith and were divided into teams identified by colors such as red, orange and blue.

They came to fix homes and cook meals at the Intersection soup kitchen in McKeesport.

“We are cleaning the kitchen,” Faith member Melanie Thomas said during a lunchtime recap of a morning's activity.

They read stories at Carnegie Library of McKeesport.

“Most of the kids go there because it is a safe place to be,” said John Garrow of Perry Highway Lutheran Church in Wexford. “If there are no kids there then we'll organize books for the librarian.”

The participants provided other services, too, from building a picnic pavilion and handicap-accessible garden beds for the McKeesport Kiwanis Community Garden to fixing bicycles.

“Sixty bicycles were donated by churches from all over our synod and Michigan,” said Faith's pastor, the Rev. Brian Evans.

Eventually, they will go to the LaRosa Boys & Girls Club in McKeesport, but first some will be put to use next month, when Pittsburgh hosts the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA.

“Some of these bikes will be taken down to the (David L. Lawrence) Convention Center and donated out to some of the delegates,” Evans said.

“I think it is a great thing for McKeesport and for the youth, to get them involved in the community,” said Major Sean Barton from the city's Salvation Army Worship and Service Center.

Barton was among those who met the youth at one of the lunches arranged during this week's mission, by the McKeesport-White Oak Kiwanis Club on Tuesday at the Common Ground.

“Brian Evans, our past president, has been implemental in getting Mission on the Mon into this area and asked for people to host a lunch or something,” said the Rev. Frank Zeman, McKeesport-White Oak Kiwanis secretary. “We've done that the past two years.”

Zeman offered an invitation of his own.

“Do any of you know of a Key Club in your high schools?” he asked. Two raised their hands.

Zeman said Key Club is an opportunity “for changing the world, one community at a time and one child at a time.”

The youths and adults, including laity and ordained ministers, worked on projects with ACTION-Housing Inc. and at the Center for Victims' Womansplace shelter and townhouses.

“We're almost done,” Kristin told fellow volunteers at the Kiwanis luncheon.

“Oh, you have more coming,” Evans replied.

There was plenty of time for fellowship in other places during the week. For instance, participants took a trip on Tuesday night to see the Pirates during a rain-delayed game at PNC Park.

Mini-missions have been spawned from the main effort. There was a one-day effort in March and another is being planned for later this year.

More details about the mission can be found at the website.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or

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