Sowing the seeds
The Saving Grace Church of Brethren on Pacific Avenue in North Fort Myers had some guests last week, and if you visited ECHO at any time, you would have seen them.
A work team of about 15 people from throughout the United States came to North Fort Myers to do some missionary work at the farm, see some of the sights Lee County has to offer, and conduct the COB Sunday service before heading back to the home base in Elgin, Ill.
It is the second year the church has done this, according to Teresa Beardmore, church administrator.
“The church has kids who go out and work during the summertime,” Beardmore said. “It’s an outreach into the community and they always ask what they can do for us, and we said for them to conduct our service.”
The teens are a group from Illinois, Virginia and Pennsylvania, said work camp coordinator Katie Cummings, and they go out and do two dozen other assignments throughout the summer.
“Each week we’ve been traveling, but it’s not the same group of kids. They have the option to go to different ones,” Cummings said. “The program is 25 years old this summer and we’ve done soup kitchens, and fixed up homes for the underprivileged.”
The group arrived on Monday and, after taking a tour of ECHO in the morning, went to work, digging holes for posts and pulling up weeds in the Florida heat.
Most, like Monica McFadden, 17, from Elgin, Ill., didn’t mind the extra sweat.
“I’d heard from other people that it was really awesome and even from adults. The type of missions they do here, the intense types of farming, are really cool,” McFadden said before she went out to pull weeds. “The tour was really cool.”
Madeline Mellinger, 15, of Lancaster, Pa., came with her sister, and mother. She said service has been a family tradition.
“My two brothers and fathers did this nine years ago, so we thought it would be fun to repeat history,” Mellinger said. “I love it. We live on a goat farm, so this is an interest.”
“Because we’re farmers, we’re looking for practical ways to do things, but we as a family have a commitment to ending hunger,” Madeline’s mother, Mary, said.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Klein, 15, of Virginia, went on post- hole duty. He also came here through family.
“It’s cool seeing these plants and how they teach people to grow crops in different areas,” Klein said.
At night, they slept at the church in sleeping bags before going out again to work. Only on Saturday did the group really get a chance to relax and see some of the sights.
But going on missions for the church and helping others is a win-win for everyone involved.
“It’s good to see the kids because it teaches them responsibility. Last year, they put in a concrete bridge,” Beardmore said. “They do some good stuff for the people.”