During the last week of June, teens from across the region participated in Youth Encounter Service, or Y.E.S., a weeklong project that challenges youth to learn about the causes of poverty, volunteer at various service agencies and perform minor repairs and beautify two homes on South Fifth Avenue in Saginaw. Volunteers scraped and repainted each house’s exterior and completed yardwork.
In addition to working on homes, groups lent helping hands to Mustard Seed Shelter, Eastside Soup Kitchen, Emmaus House of Saginaw (which helps women transition from jail, prison or rehab), City Rescue Mission of Saginaw and the St. Francis Home, Rehab and Skilled Nursing Care Center. Activities also helped youth understand the daily struggles faced by those in poverty, such as the difficulty of feeding a family using food stamps. Each day, participants pray together throughout the day.
“When you talk about mission work, a lot of people naturally think abroad,” said Linda Milco, a diocesan employee and longtime Y.E.S. staffer. “But people in this country, this state and this city also live in desperation.”
(Video above from 2018. After clicking play button, click on speaker icon in bottom right to turn on sound)
Now in its 26th year, Y.E.S. has expanded to include not only Catholic teens, but also those of other faiths. Four youth and three adult staff from Saginaw’s Ascension Lutheran Church, including pastor Julie Bailey, participated in the weeklong mission.
At its heart, Y.E.S. is about learning through experience not only what it means to serve, but also learning about issues of poverty through the lens of Catholic social teaching. The Church’s social teaching is rooted in the dignity of the human person. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/2LtwbYd
“I really appreciate going to the agencies,” said adult volunteer Steve Salowitz of Saginaw, whose son was also participating. “It’s good to see what’s in the community.”
Salowitz added that meeting the homeowners was also a highlight.
“The beauty of Y.E.S. is it gives kids the opportunity to have a mission experience. It’s almost like a stepping stone,” said Glenn Thelen of Nativity of the Lord Parish in Alma. His daughter, Emily, had participated in Y.E.S. for several years and has since participated in other mission trips.
“We are the hands and feet of Christ,” said Nikki Bakos, director of Y.E.S., adding that mission is more than just the physical labor of working on houses.