Paducah Urban Missions Plunge (PUMP camp) inspires students to volunteer post-camp

12/6/2013

PUMP camp incorporates spiritual lessons with community service. For four days each summer, students spend their mornings volunteering at various ministries. Their afternoons include spiritual lessons, worship and games.


By Casey Northcutt Watson
 
Last August, Broadway UMC youth Livi Gregorowicz turned 17. For her birthday celebration, she donned a pink dress, a birthday sash and a hair net.
 
Gregorowicz held her birthday party at an anti-hunger organization in Paducah, Ky., after learning about the organization during the annual Paducah Urban Missions Plunge (PUMP Camp). According to Rebecca O'Brien, Broadway's director of student ministries, she and her guests packed more than 2,000 meals for those in need around the world.
 
“PUMP Camp is just a wonderful conduit of mission outreach opportunities,” O’Brien says. “It’s pretty cool to watch the kids get on fire for something because they’ve experienced it and not just heard about it.”
 
Gregorowicz is one of several youth to connect to local ministries and nonprofit organizations during PUMP Camp. Established 15 years ago, the camp is a youth event currently hosted by Broadway in Paducah, Ky., that incorporates spiritual lessons with community service. For four days each summer, students spend their mornings volunteering at various ministries. Their afternoons include spiritual lessons, worship and games.
 
“All my kids wanted to go all the time,” O’Brien says. “To me, that’s a great result—that they really enjoyed the experience and that they can’t wait to go back next year.”
 
During the most recent camp in July 2013, youth spent most of their time painting houses with the Midtown Alliance of Neighbors. However, they also sorted food for the Paducah Cooperative Ministry, sorted donated clothes and toys for Starfish Orphan Ministry and packed meals for Kids Against Hunger, the nonprofit that hosted Gregorowicz’s party.
 
O’Brien says other campers besides Gregorowicz enjoyed their time at Kids Against Hunger (KAH), a national organization with branches across the United States. After two mornings of work, PUMP Campers packed more than 7,000 meals full of soy, rice, dried vegetables, and chicken flavoring to send to hungry families around the world.
 
“It’s easy,” O’Brien says. “Not only can you raise money, but you can go have your hands on it. … You really get to experience making a difference.”
 
Since PUMP Camp, Broadway youth have returned to KAH to help again. On October 26, they joined a community-wide effort to pack more than 50,000 meals.
 
But O’Brien says this isn’t the first time PUMP has inspired churches and youth to volunteer in their communities. In the past, students have become involved with a local soup kitchen and a local poverty ministry after learning about them during camp. One camper from Broadway even conducted his Eagle Scout project at Starfish Orphan Ministry and helped the organization install shelving units in its clothing room.
 
CJ Cassell, youth minister for McKenzie First UMC in McKenzie, Tenn., says after his youth attended the 2013 PUMP, they felt driven to get involved in their own town. This fall, they helped with a Second Harvest food giveaway.
 
“(During camp,) youth saw support in their faith through their cohorts and then built on each other to better serve their community,” he says. “Seeing their own effect on people's lives gave them hope for what they could do in the present and future.”
 
PUMP organizers already have begun planning for summer 2014 so that hope will continue. The 2014 dates are set for July 13-18. Youth ministers can register their students at any time. For more information, visit http://pumpcamp.org.