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Breakneck Church of God youth programs continue to grow

| Friday, Feb. 17, 2012
The Breakneck Church of God and the Clinton Church of God is hosting a weekly youth program, which meets at the Breakneck Church of God, 816 Breakneck Road, Connellsville, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays. Group members, from left are, front row, Victoria Bittner, 8, of Bullskin; and Cassidy Cramer, 8, of Connellsville; second row, Bradlen Demidovich, 9, of Connellsville; and Brianna Uhrinek, 9, of Bullskin; third row, Timmy Sipe, 9, of Normalville; and Anna Vickers, 9, Acme; fourth row, Shyan Nicholson, 9, of Normalville; and Ethan Shultz, 9, of Connellsville; fifth row, Dalaney Nicholson, 8, and Julia Bradish, 8, both of Connellsville; and back row, Landen Cicchitello, 8, and Hailee Liska, 9, both of Connellsville.

A local church program that promotes God and community to the youth of the area has proven to be very popular among the local children and teens.

Seven years ago the Breakneck Church of God and the Clinton Church of God began hosting a weekly youth program. The group meets at the Breakneck Church of God, 816 Breakneck Road, Connellsville, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, September through March. The first year, about 20 children participated. Since then the program has grown to 45 children and teens from ages 3 to 21.

"We do have a large number of youth in our church but we also have kids from other churches and other kids who do not attend church at all. That is the positive part of it — getting the other kids in the community involved," said Program Director Lisa Bowman.

One of the reasons the program may be so popular is the unique reward system organizers have designed. The Pioneer Club is for children who are 3 to 12 years of age. After children attend the program for the third time they receive a bag, sash. The sash is where they collect and display the badges they earn through the program, as boy scouts and girl scouts do when they earn badges in those programs. On the third visit children receive a name badge, class club badge, club logo badge, a youth Bible and a club tote bag. Badges are awarded approximately every four weeks during church worship services.

"It's fun and we get to do a lot of fun stuff like going outside and looking for rocks, singing and getting to see all my friends," said Landen Cicchitello, 8, of Connellsville.

The Pioneer Club is divided into four levels: Scooters, age 3 to kindergarten; Voyagers, first and second grades; and Pathfinder, third and fourth grades.

The Trailblazers, for fifth and sixth graders, was added this year to help bridge the gap between the Pioneer Club and the Youth Group for teens in seventh grade to 21 years of age. These preteens do not earn badges, but instead have a chance to win little prizes, candy and gift cards. They earn chances at these prizes by bringing their bible, tote bag, offering jars, contributing to discussions and attending church services.

The members of the youth group received Bibles. The teens and young adults participate in activities that teach them such skills as CPR, self defense, first aid and various life skills. The youth also give of themselves.

"We do a lot of charity work. We went to sing Happy Birthday to an elderly church member who was 94. We gave Christmas baskets and Thanksgiving baskets to a needy family in the community. We volunteer for soup and sandwiches dinner for the church and fundraisers for the church," said Kaitlin Shultz, 13, of Normalville.

All of the children come together on many community projects including helping fire victims, shelters, and Connellsville Ministry.

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