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Come to the table: Youth ministry builds picnic tables, benches for families

By Betsy Ramsbotham
For the Clemmons Courier

Picnics are on the list of favorite summer activities.

When COVID-19 safety precautions stopped families from having picnics at local parks, Clemmons First United Methodist Church’s youth ministry brainstormed how some families could still enjoy their summer picnics.

Under the guidance of youth minister Amanda Batten, they decided to build picnic tables and deliver them to families who could use a positive among all the negatives that COVID-19 has caused.

“At our ‘Come to the Table’ mission and retreat weeks at the end of July, we built picnic tables and benches to be spread through the community for those in need as well as members of our congregation,” said Grace Monteith, a senior at Atkins High School.

“Even with all the safety and health regulations in place, we were still able to enjoy the time spent together. Knowing that this experience was going to help the community made it very meaningful,” she said.

During typical, non-Covid summers, the youth have spent their mission time in sessions in and near the North Carolina mountains.

The home repair session allowed them to complete projects including wheelchair ramps, porches, underpinning, painting, yard work and house cleaning for people who are unemployed, disabled, elderly or single parents.

During a different session, the youth met and befriended people in the homeless community in and around Asheville.

A mission trip to Honduras was an opportunity for 10th, 11th, and 12th graders on the Youth Discipleship Team to work with children living in children’s homes.

Then came the unprecedented restrictions of the summer of 2020.

Fortunately, when the idea of making items for their local community was born, many of the youth already had construction knowledge they had gained at previous home repair summer missions.

Tom Miller, a retired pilot and church member, lent his construction skills and taught and mentored the rising ninth through 12th graders during the third week of July. He worked with rising sixth through eighth graders during the fourth week of July.

The finished products were six children’s picnic tables, three adult picnic tables and two park benches. Two large octangular tables are still under construction.

While working, everyone adhered to the CDC’s safety guidelines, according to Batten. “We all wore masks, practiced social distancing, and used handwashing stations. At lunch we had individual boxes from restaurants,” she said.

The two weeks were filled with hard work, but there was also time for fellowship and personal reflection.

“We all had a great time spending a few days together and with God, giving back to the community, also joining God’s table. We did multiple fun activities such as a slip and slide. An amazing part of this week was how I grew closer to everyone and grew closer to God,” said Amelia Bray, a seventh grader at Clemmons Middle School.

“In very different and often difficult times, it was amazing to be with my brothers and sisters in Christ. To be with people who not only have faith, but also kindness and a positive attitude is always special. It’s great to be able to use that energy for good in our community,” said Sam Yakos, a junior at West Forsyth High School.