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Student ministry delivers cheer to Hilltop residents

| Saturday, June 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Assisting Dolores Mascara, a resident at the Residence At Hilltop, Carroll Township, with a jigsaw puzzle during their June, 2013, visit at the personal care community are Realife Student Ministry members Alicia Jeffries, Emily-Ann Belluso and Kelsey Wareham.

Anyone with questions about bridging the proverbial generation gap might do well to talk to the young people who comprise the Realife Student Ministries of Journey By Grace Church in Rostraver Township.

“They were, in a word, wonderful,” said Lynn Matsick, activities director at the Residence at Hilltop personal care community on Route 837 in Carroll Township, where residents benefitted from the ingenuity and thoughtfulness of some 50 members of the ministry.

“They were like a breath of fresh air to everyone here.”

The teenagers from Journey By Grace Church, which is located on Route 51 North in Rostraver, baked cookies and other items and delivered them to the Residence at Hilltop, which is owned and operated by Mon-Vale Non-Acute Services, a subsidiary of Mon-Vale Health Resources Inc., parent company of Monongahela Valley Hospital. They also visited with the residents and sang songs for them.

The “Bake and Take” project was the idea of several ministry students led by Jessi Hurley, 15.

“They thought it would be a significant way to help people on the church's prayer list and in the community,” Matsick said. “We are deeply appreciative of the unique idea and the consideration the young people extended to our residents, most of whom are elderly. These children certainly now how to span the ages. For them, there is no such thing as a generation gap.”

Matsick said the ministry's efforts at the Residence at Hilltop went beyond “creating and delivering delicious baked goods.”

“Their singing and interaction with the residents were superb,” she said in a note of appreciation to Brian Keith Smith, youth pastor at Journey By Grace Church. “Our residents were delighted with how open and pleasant the children were in conversations with them. (Residents) felt they had known them for a long time and were not just meeting them fo the first time.”

Matsick said Walt Young, executive director of the Residence at Hilltop, staff and “especially the residents” are hoping to have the Realife Student Ministries return for other programs including a performance by the group's Youth Praise Band.

“They certainly are welcome here at any time,” she said

In all that they do, members of the group strive to meet the goals and ideals of the Realife Student Ministries. The basic tenet of the organization is to “reach non-believing students, connect them with other Christians, help them grow in their faith and to challenge to growing to serve and honor God with their life.”

As youth pastor of the group, Smith provides leadership, direction, oversight and energy to the students.

Adults serving as crew leaders are Renee Lynn Hurley, Tracie Lynne Ford, Melissa Leigh Behanna and Josh Michael Green.

Describing herself as “a proud parent of a Realife student,” Renee Hurley, mother of Jessi Hurley, lauded the program.

“I have watched my daughter grow and develop week after week since becoming a part of Realife,” she said. “It is a safe place to come while God intervenes and works in her life. Realife is like a family that supports one another through the challenges that students face today. My relationship with my daughter is one of closeness and connection and I know that Realife has helped establish and maintain that. Pastor Brian is doing a phenomenal job and I am thankful for him.”

Residents at the Residence at Hilltop would agree.

The Realife Student Ministry meets 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 9:45 to 10:30 a.m. Sundays at the Journey By Grace Church.

Additional information is available at the group's website,, or by calling 724-823-0070.

Ron Paglia is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.