If you saw youth wearing bright pink T-shirts working around Story City on any given Wednesday this July, then you saw St. Petri Lutheran, Bergen Lutheran, Grace United Methodist and Immanuel Lutheran’s youth ministry program called Summer Stretch.
Summer Stretch began with one congregation in Burnsville, Minn., 25 years ago. This year Summer Stretch has expanded to be a cooperative arrangement of over 85 congregations in the Twin Cities, Wisconsin and Iowa, bringing together several thousand middle school and high school youth one day a week to work in their communities as servants of Christ, and to have a lot of fun doing it. The program has been a part of the Roland-Story community for six years and this year had a record number of participants: 38 middle school youth, high school and college aged youth.
“Summer Stretch allows middle school youth to come together in small groups, to worship and have Bible study and to sample a variety of places to serve, to have fun together and to make a difference in Jesus’ name,” said Kristin Johnson, youth director from St. Petri Lutheran and Bergen Lutheran congregations. “It’s also an opportunity for high school and college youth to mentor small groups and to lead by example. And it welcomes adults to help make it all happen by driving and serving alongside the youth from work sites to the afternoon activities.”
Summer Stretch participants could be found at many sites around the Story City community including delivering Meals on Wheels, cleaning at Affordables and re-painting many of the bright red fire hydrants you see around town. The youth also learned to tie quilts with the St. Petri quilting group, which has been one of their favorite work sites for six years running.
“These are just a few of the things we’ve done,” said Johnson, “we also were able to purchase enough school supplies with the generosity of Bergen Lutheran and St. Petri’s Endowment to provide for 58 school kits and 15 new backpacks for children and youth in grades Pre-K through eighth grade in our school district.”
Though Johnson argues that the entire day is a fun experience, the Summer Stretch participants ended their days with group activities geared more toward fellowship and recreation. Events included a trip to Furman Water Park and the new Story City pool as well as swimming at Little Wall Lake.
Summer Stretch began on Wednesday, July 5, and ran through July 19. Each session began at 9:30 a.m. and wrapped up at 3:30 p.m. The group ended their summer with a trip to Adventureland in Altoona on Thursday, July 21.