This article was submitted by Rev. Dan Finch
Trips to Myrtle Beach or Disney World are what most youth think of for a special time on Spring Break. Others work on perfecting their approach to “Fortnite” or some other popular video game. But eleven youth from Livonia and Hemlock United Methodist Churches have joined over 800 youth from Monroe and surrounding counties to spend their Spring Break changing out bathrooms, replacing broken and worn out floors, and putting in new walls in houses of elderly and disabled people in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Rochester. “I worked with a circular saw and a jig saw to cut floor boards for my house,” said Aidan Nichols – a freshman at Livonia Central. “My family, that I served, was really nice – she was a very elderly black woman and her daughter. It felt great to help them.”
Not only do the kids give up their time, they also give up the comforts of home. They sleep on the floors of classrooms in churches and get bussed to a local high school for showers. The program is called Flower City Work Camp and has been in existence since 1985. Fifty-eight churches from all kinds of denominations work together to make Flower City work. “My job was to hang with the kids every evening as they finish dinner. I went to worship with them and heard the area’s top speakers and worship bands lead the services. It’s awesome to see hundreds of kids rocking and clapping for an hour every night when you know they have worked so hard all day, and those speakers touched my heart as much as they did the kids’. The only hard part was getting them to go to sleep the first night by eleven. Yes, I slept on a blow-up mattress in a room with fourteen boys. It didn’t smell so great by the end of the week, but it certainly did change them in a positive way,” says “P.D.” or Pastor Dan Finch, one of the youth leaders from Livonia.
“Flower City taught me to reach out to people I don’t necessarily understand – even their culture. It has helped me step out of my comfort zone and perceive Jesus’ heart,” said Grace Garrand – a homeschooled senior from Hemlock, NY.
Every church that sends kids to Flower City is required to send volunteers who support the effort. Skilled craftspeople plan and supervise every rebuilding project. Some, like Phil Schedlbauer are retired (former elementary principal of Livonia Central School) but others, like Scott Marshall, are professional contractors who give up a week of their construction year to make a difference in the city and in the lives of the kids. Other volunteers deliver lunch to the construction sites or act as “go-fers” with runs to local lumber stores for supplies. Back at the host churches there are small armies of volunteers doing everything from 24 hour nursing, to security, to providing hot, generous meals each morning and evening for 800 kids and all the volunteers. Rev. Hoyt Brown, the pastor of the Livonia United Methodist Church was one of the volunteers who brought lunches to the work sites. He said, “I really honor the commitment these kids have made to be God’s love in the city. I know it is a real sacrifice to give up their spring break. I loved getting to know the kids at worksite #43”
“Many of our kids have not had any opportunities for cross-cultural interaction,” reports Doug Young, retired math teacher from Livonia Central. “Flower City is a local, inexpensive, life changing event for our Livonia kids. I’ve been sold on it for several years now. This year I was happy to be the church representative who went to all the planning meetings up at Hope Lutheran Church in Greece.”
The Livonia Church asked to especially thank Mr. Matt Cole – superintendent of schools for Livonia Central – for his advocacy in helping to have the Spring Break vacation schedule in Livingston County coincide with the schedule in Monroe County. “Most schools in Livingston County plan their schedules based on what BOCES does,” reported Matt Cole. “We do see the value of community service for our students and agree that cross-cultural experiences help in preparing them for life after graduation.”
Flower City staff report that each team used about $1,000 of building materials in each of the 51 homes that were renewed by the youth this year. They estimate that the improvements add $10,000 to the value of those homes.
In addition to working on houses, teams of youth also provide Sidewalk Clubs, basketball camps and soccer camps for neighborhood kids throughout the City of Rochester during spring break. The youth also do prayer walks through various neighborhoods – asking to pray for people on the street, or simply praying for homes and businesses they pass as they walk. The dates of next year’s Flower City Work Camp will be April 14 – 18, 2019.
This article was submitted by Rev. Dan Finch