One Great Hour of Sharing beneficiary of Connecticut youth fast
Written by Connie N. Larkman
March 20, 2014

Pilgrim Fellowship Youth Group inSimsbury, Conn.

If you take a group of committed young church members, and add ingenuity and cooperation to a 30-hour fast, the equation equals a great gift of more than $5,000 to the UCC One Great Hour of Sharing Offering from First Church, Simsbury, Conn. United Church of Christ.

"We are all excited about the fact that we took what has traditionally been a one Sunday offering and did it in a different way," said the Rev. Kevin L. Weikel, the associate minister, for youth & young adults at First Church.  Wiekel said First Church congregants have a history of giving to the special mission offering, which provides assistance to the less fortunate and responds to disasters around the world, so the church changed things up a bit this year. "We thought instead of having the traditional offering on the last Sunday of March (suggested offering date is March 30), we would have folks give to OGHS through our youth.  I was very pleased with the response from our congregation and it helped connect our youth group with the rest of the church. Our congregation supported OGHS, but also encouraged our youth with their fast. The project brought unique energy to OGHS this year."

The project, a 30-hour fast by the Pilgrim Fellowship Youth Group in Simsbury, collected donations in support of those fasting on-line, using the fundraising site Razoo.  It was successful for several reasons.  First, the 49 people involved in the fast more than met their fundraising goal of $5,000, bringing in $5,612 from 100 donors.  Second, the fasters learned what it is like to go without.

Abby Ritson, a Pilgrim Fellowship member and high school senior, and found the 30-hour fast a challenge. "I had always heard of fasting, but had never committed to doing one," Abby said.  "With the support of my youth group, I gained a new understanding and level of compassion for those who go hungry.  Although I felt irritable, tired and weak, I realized how important food is.  I just can't imagine going to school each day feeling like this. It is rewarding to know that we were able to exceed our goal and make a $5,600 donation to One Great Hour of Sharing."

The project also underscored an important partnership between the local church and Wider Church Ministries.  First Church had used the Razoo fundraising page before successfully, but had to introduce the site to the One Great Hour of Sharing staff.  Phyllis Richards, OGHS program associate supported the effort by acting as the liaison between Razoo and the church.

"In the current situation of the church we talk a lot about how important it is to try new things, but in practice new things are hard to do," Weikel said. "It took some time, but I think that was really cool. To see the national setting do that for us in the local church was great.  We had this idea, and Phyllis helped make it work."

"Rev. Weikel worked tirelessly and patiently with us as we put the mechanism in place for the youth (team) to raise money. He and the youth created the individual web pages, etc." said Richards. "But this is not just about the money raised. The group of youth, under the leadership of the associate minister, learned about OGHS and ways they could really internalize what they were doing and learning."

That's exactly the experience of the top fundraiser Maddie Earnhardt, a sophomore at Simsbury High. "I chose to participate in the fast because I wanted to experience something that seemed so foreign to me," Maddie said. "From the fast, I have learned just how important food is for the human body to function. I have gained yet another new perspective, as it seems that I have gained many of these new perspectives during my time in Pilgrim Fellowship. This experience is something that I will not forget, due to its strong impact on my outlook on something as simple as eating."

In addition to raising money, learning about hunger and gaining empathy for others, Wiekel said the youth also internalized the spiritual process of fasting.  Oh-and one more, very important lesson was learned. "How much the Church can do when we work together."

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Ms. Connie N. Larkman
Managing Editor & News Director
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-2196
larkmanc@ucc.org