Pastor Nick and First Congo’s Youth Group spent the week volunteering with Cass Community Social Services, a long standing and well respected non-profit through the United Methodist Church serving the greater Detroit area.  Below are some highlights.

Sunday, June 23

We arrived safely to Cass Community Social Services in Detroit, MI on Monday evening. We were warmly greeted and provided with a WONDERFUL meal! We had sliders, homemade fries, grilled asparagus, corn, potato salad and coleslaw. Did you know that Cass serves 700,000 meals EVERY year! That’s a LOT of food!

Monday, June 24

We arose early this morning to another wonderful meal of pancakes and ham.  Our group was split into 2 teams. One team started the day in the kitchen helping to prep the tasty food. We also washed the walls and shelves in preparation for a visit from state.

The other group spent time mowing lawns, weed whacking and picking weeds around their brand new tiny home community.  These homes are 200 – 400 square feet and are given to individuals that qualify based on one of these criteria – 1) homeless individuals 2) elderly 3) teens aging out of foster care 4) disabled individuals. When a person receives a home, they pay $1 per square foot per month for 7 years and then they own the home.

In the afternoon we swapped jobs.

Then, late in the afternoon, our group was given a tour of the Wailing Wall. This wall was built in the 1940’s to satisfy the federal housing authority which would not guarantee housing loans in “undesirable neighborhoods” – a somber reminder of the racism within our country.  In the late 1950’s, this practice ended and today the community around the Wailing Wall is predominantly African American.

Tuesday, June 25

Both groups created rubber mats. These mats are made of old tires that are cut into strips. There is a unique pattern that must be followed in order to create the mats. We also enjoyed spending time with the employees that taught to us how to make the mats.

One of our groups helped out at a local activity center, working with adults aged 19-92 that had a cognitive disability. The group engaged in card games, drawing pictures – even dancing! The other group assisted with paper shredding – a very big task.

We again ate dinner with the residents at Casa Community, and afterwards we explored the river front. It was a perfect day!

Check out First Congo’s Facebook page for many more pictures that show the great day had by all.

Wednesday, June 26

Today one of our groups was tasked with sorting through donated items from the community. After sorting these items into categories, we carried them from the first floor to the fourth floor warehouse storage area. Our legs got a workout!

Both groups did some painting today as well. One painted the dining room and the other painted the awnings on the main building.

More time was spent at the activity center. This time we played card games, painted nails and held a karaoke talent show!

This evening we visited The Heidelberg Project in Detroit with the other local church group on this Mission Trip. We had fellowship together and shared in an outdoor communion service.

To top the night off – we stopped for ice cream at Cold Stone! A special shout out to the Clair Gehn fund for this tasty treat!

We are really enjoying mingling with the many residents of Cass Community and making friends along the way!

Thursday, June 27

Today was a warm day in Detroit!  Both groups spent the day shredding paper. Cass Community employs several individuals with disabilities at this plant. Companies donate outdated files that are confidential and need to be shredded.

Both groups really enjoyed working with the Cass consumers at the shredding plant that we had visited with earlier in the week. Many remembered us by name!

The other half of the day, one group went tire hunting. The tires are found in local abandoned buildings as they haven’t been recycled properly. Cass Community finds them and uses them to make the mats. This accomplishes two goals; reusing materials by recycling appropriately and providing employment for the members of the Cass Community when they build the mats.  This also allows Cass to make some money to continue their mission. Check out https://casscommunity.org/mud-mats/ for more info on these mats.

The other group helped out at the World building by moving furniture from the ground floor up to the 4th floor. They were working to furnish apartments for new residents of Cass.  Our legs are getting super strong from climbing flights of stairs!

We ended our last night by dining at a local Middle Eastern restaurant Al Ameer in Detroit. We were joined by another volunteer group from a church in Michigan, the Cass Interns; Joselyn, Isadora and Ben as well as Reverend Sue.  Many of us enjoyed trying new foods!

Friday – Saturday, June 26-27

On Friday morning one group did more tire hunting while the other group worked to clean up the grounds around Scott Hall.

We packed up Friday afternoon and headed to Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake. It was sad to say goodbye to the many friends we made in Detroit.  

On our way to Higgins Lake, we stopped for dinner and shopping at a local mall. We arrived safely to Camp Westminster and settled into our lodge. That evening we spent time in large group sharing the many lessons we learned throughout the week as well as the many ways we experienced gratitude.

Saturday was a day of fun in the sun as we embarked on a canoe trip down the Au Sable River!  Later that evening, we engaged in worship and communion with one another.  We also took time to celebrate our seniors; Kayla Bechyne and Kalyn Vander Grinten.

Thanks to First Congregational members for supporting us on this wonderful mission trip where we learned the power of gratitude as we served the people of Detroit!

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