By Mary Marshall
ROCK HILL – Fourteen St. Anne Parish teens, armed with the desire to help needy neighbors in the Rock Hill community, recently joined forces to form the Diocese of Charleston’s first St. Vincent de Paul Youth Conference.
The 11th- and 12th-graders, who all attend Northwestern High School, responded to a letter of invitation to be the “first” in the organization, which is an outreach of the adult St. Vincent de Paul Society. Donna Willis, who is president of the St. Anne St. Vincent de Paul Society and a parish member, serves as the diocesan youth coordinator.
The goal is to give the youth of the parish, who are surrounded by materialism, the opportunity to understand and assist those who are less fortunate. Like the parish’s adult conference, their acts of charity will strengthen their spiritual growth and increase Christ’s experience in their lives.
At the group’s organizational meeting, students elected Ashley Gozur, president; Scott Graupner, vice-president; Jessica Bell, secretary; Peter Egan, treasurer; Lindsay Stuber, spiritual advisor; and Corey Kinne, projects. Kelly Willis, daughter of Donna Willis and a senior at Winthrop University, serves as youth advisor.
The group’s first project was a blanket drive. Advertising was through word of mouth and a bulletin flyer. As parishioners dropped off their donations, members presented them with “thank you” notes.
On Oct. 26, members of the Youth Conference assisted the St. Vincent de Paul Society who sponsored the parish’s first annual fall festival. They greeted people as they sold tickets and coordinated the children’s games.
“Helping at the fall festival was a great experience for all of us,” says Gozur. “Our goal was to raise $5,000 to help needy people in our area.”
The group exceeded their $5,000 goal.
Member Tim Rabideau made one child’s day as he attached a special prize to the end of a bamboo pole at the fishing booth.
“I like helping with the projects; it especially makes me feel good to help little kids,” says Rabideau. “I’m looking forward to other projects such as painting houses for the needy.”
As Meredith Gettys sold tickets, she knew she was ultimately helping those less fortunate. The only member of the group who is not a Catholic, Gettys yearned to be a part of a service group. So when her friend Gozur, told her about the groups’ plans, she came on board.
“I like getting out into the community and talking to the people, seeing firsthand how others live. My involvement in the Youth Conference will help me become more well rounded,” said Gettys.
The Youth Conference meets on the first and third Sunday of each month. Each officer diligently responds to the needs of their commitment.
Gozur prepares budgets, conducts meetings, serves as coordinator between the group leaders and helps organize events.
Stuber opens and closes each meeting with a prayer and inflects a spiritual tone through lessons.
“This is the hardest part,” says Stuber. “My goal is to create a message that will outlive the meeting.”
The group has a full agenda with plans for collecting canned food items and fund-raisers, such as a donut sale. In December, they will help with the Parish Giving Tree, a project of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. A blood drive is planned, and next summer, they will participate in a “Construction Ministry” through the Charleston Outreach Program in Charleston. This ministry consists of painting, light carpentry, and other assistance to low-income homes in need.
“We’re all excited about the Construction Ministry when we will have five days to concentrate on helping others,” says Gozur. “It will also be an opportunity for the group to bond and grow spiritually.”