Imagine that you are 17 years old and a Junior in high school. You
leave your warm bed at 6am on a Saturday, get dressed, and go to work
in an old, cold barn. Instead of catching up on sleep or spending time
with your friends on the weekend, you stand on a cold concrete floor,
serve 3,000-4,000 people a meal, and go home covered in pancake
batter, maple syrup, and bbq sauce. This is not a plot from a new
reality show coming out, but it is the reality for the youth Group at
Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana.
Every year we turn our Sugarhouse, an old, cold, non-insulated barn
into a restaurant for the 4 days of the Maple Syrup Festival. Battling
the weather, frozen water pipes, and frozen fingers, the Grace
Lutheran Church youth group will help prepare and serve the delicious
pancakes, waffles, maple BBQ chicken and pork to our festival
attendees. It’s hectic, it’s hard work, but you won’t meet anyone
without a smile on their face.
The kitchen and food service staff are volunteers from various local
charitable groups. It started 25 years ago with the CARE women’s group
from Salem, Indiana, serving a simple pancake breakfast. Over the
years, groups have come from the Henryville Community Church, Bunker
Hill Christian Church, Fisherman’s Paradise Men’s Group, as well as
many others. Our menu has changed from pancakes and syrup, to a full
breakfast and lunch/dinner menu.
This is the second year for the Grace Lutheran Church youth group
volunteering in the kitchen. Last year (2015), the proceeds from the
kitchen service were used for renovations to the youth room at the
church. The group purchased new furniture and supplies, making the
youth area an inviting haven for fellowship and community activities.
This year, the youth group is fundraising for a Haiti mission trip in
the summer of 2017. The youth group, along with several adult
chaperones from the congregation, will travel to Haiti to help with
the local vacation bible school program, volunteer at the local
hospital, and help with several construction projects. The cost of the
trip is $2,000-$3,000 per person. While you enjoy a delicious meal,
you are not only helping your local community, you are helping fund an
outreach program across the world. On average, we donate
$7,500-$10,000 (or more!) per year to the groups who staff and run the
kitchen and food service area.
In addition to the kitchen area, the candle making activity in the
Children’s Activity Building is run by several volunteers from the
Operation Christmas Child program. This program is the largest
Christmas program, filling shoeboxes with goodies and helpful items to
needy children around the world. 100% of the profit from the candle
making activity is donated directly to this wonderful organization.
Lastly, the parking attendants this year will be volunteers from our
local high school football team (Go Musketeers!!). The football team
is fundraising for new equipment this season. A donation will be made
to the team in exchange for their hours worked at the festival. They
might even get in a weekend workout if the parking is muddy!