As a former high school teacher, Janice Schweder knew a thing or two about teenagers. And as a specialist in business studies, she knew a thing or two about solving problems. That skill set came together perfectly in the formation of All Saints’ Community Youth Group at the Anglican church of the same name in Hagersville, Ont., south of Hamilton.
All Saints’ was in a period of transition, moving from sharing a minister with four churches to having its own. “There was a lot of disenchantment, and some people were leaving the roughly 70-family parish,” says Schweder, who asked herself what she could do to help revitalize the parish.
Her goal was to give All Saints’ a youthful infusion and to get community kids positively involved in public life. Starting in 2011, with an average age of 14 years, the All Saints’ Community Youth Group has helped the Lions Club with its annual food drive, Easter egg hunt and Summer’s End festival. The group assembled and wrapped activity-oriented Easter baskets for children, which were presented during All Saints’ Palm Sunday service to the local food bank manager.
Another big hit is the annual Purina Walk for Dog Guides, which raises money for the Lions Foundation’s school in Oakville to train dogs ($25,000 apiece) to work with the blind, the deaf, the autistic, the wheelchair-bound and other special-needs groups.
The competitive “Divine Dogs” were featured in the local paper, and the community response was more than enthusiastic. As for the other churches, they don’t seem to mind that All Saints’ is attracting teens from their parishes. “They’re happy to see the group’s success in getting youth involved,” says Schweder.