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Over the course of seven weeks this summer, 600 youth from the community are spending a total of 12,000 volunteer hours serving the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Journey Church, a multisite congregation of 3,000 that is known for community involvement, is working with Group Missions Trips’ Week of Hope for the seventh year in a row in order to put their love of Christ in action. Kenosha is a city of 100,000 located midway between Milwaukee and Chicago.

According to Bob W. Griffith, Journey Church executive pastor, attendees serve at assisted living facilities, the Easter Seals camp for students with special needs, Inspiration Ministries, Meals on Wheels, and local food pantries.

The Week of Hope Teen Camp has multiple positive impacts. Students assist residents at the food pantries; interact with residents of assisted care facilities through conversation, games, and crafts; help individuals with special needs at local camps; and complete special projects.

“It’s serving at a scale that our church couldn’t do alone,” Griffith says. “This camp is part of an overall strategy that has created a positive reputation for Journey Church.”

The Week of Hope provides youth an on-ramp to service that impacts their hearts for a lifetime, infuses the city with practical help directed through the local church, and creates community relationships that extend beyond the summer. Griffith, who is responsible to lead the church’s community outreach efforts, believes the camp has played an important role in helping to build a culture of service within the faith community.

“It glorifies God and builds up youth with what it means to serve,” he says. “It becomes part of what they do in life, and they continue looking for ways to serve.”

During the camp, the number one question teens are asked is, “When are you coming back?” With this in mind, Griffith has organized a Week of Serving three times a year at Journey Church for all ages. Church attendees spend one week each fall, winter, and spring serving the same nonprofits the teens work with in the summer in order to maintain contact and relationships throughout the year.

The camp is one of many ways Griffith has worked to connect Journey Church to areas of need in Kenosha. He has been promoting annual, seasonal, and weekly community service opportunities at the church since 2008. These include repair projects, visits to the elderly, park cleanups, Convoy of Hope outreaches, building a Habitat for Humanity home, creating a Disaster Response Team of 100 people, starting a food pantry that feeds 250,000 pounds of food annually through 750 volunteers, and founding a nonprofit organization called 1Hope.

In all, the church has served 60,000 people in the past four years through acts of compassion. Last year, more than three-fourths of Journey Church adherents served on or off campus in some way.

The results have been convincing. Jason A. Rossell, a judge for the Kenosha Circuit Court, says Journey Church has gained a reputation as a congregation that cares about people in the community.

“There isn’t just one need in our community, and the needs are only growing,” Rossell says. “The government can’t provide for all of that on its own.”

Rossell especially cites the work Journey Church attendees have done for foster care youth and their families, ministry to inner-city youth, and involvement in 1Hope.

“Journey Church’s impact on our community is extremely appreciated and immeasurable,” Rossell says.

Griffith and his wife, Wendy, have been personally involved in foster care and adoption.

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