Nick Stoyer from Pennsylvania carries serving bowls from the supply room at My Brother's Table. (Jim Wilson)

Teens from across the country spent the summer volunteering in Lynn

LYNN — Nick Stoyer, 16, spent Tuesday preparing and serving free meals to those in need at My Brother's Table on Willow Street.

What makes his tale unique is that the rising high school sophomore doesn't live in Lynn. Stoyer traveled from Pennsylvania with YouthWorks, a Minneapolis-based organization that provides Christ-centered mission trips for youth and adult leaders. 

"Some of my friends wanted to come here, and I thought it would be a good way to spend my summer helping people and getting closer with my relationship with God," said Stoyer. "(Serving is) really important because we have so much. It's just good to give back to people who don't have the opportunities we have."

Stoyer and more than 350 other teens from across the country have been visiting Lynn this summer to volunteer with different local organizations and give back to the community. The city is one of many YouthWorks service sites set up throughout the United States. 

Teens have been serving meals at My Brother's Table, one of YouthWorks' major service partners, at least four times a week since early June. Youth volunteering this week came from Connecticut, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. 

"It's been great," said Dianne Kuzia Hills, executive director of My Brother's Table. "We've had them here at least 20 years. It helps us out a lot because a lot of our regular (volunteer) groups aren't here in the summer. (It's) actually the busiest time of the year for us." 

In addition to serving meals, Hills said the youth also have dinner at the soup kitchen on Wednesday nights, which allows them to interact with guests. 

Spencer May, 12, traveled from Minnesota and said he's learned a lot from the trip. People take many things for granted, he said, and often waste food and money. 

"I help my dad out a lot on the farm and I wanted to help more people than just my grandpa and dad," said May. 

Hunter Diem, 17, a rising high school senior in Pennsylvania, said his uncle asked him to get involved with YouthWorks. 

"I thought it would be a good time to spend with him and the rest of my family to learn about God," said Diem. "We take so much for granted that we don't think about how some other people are doing." 

The mission trips are wrapping up this week. The groups have stayed at Grace United Methodist Church during their time in the city. Teens come from a variety of non-denominational church groups, according to Jenny Holloway, Lynn's site director for YouthWorks.  

The students have also been volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club of Lynn, the New American Center and several nursing homes, including PondView Lodge Adult Day Health Program, where the group will be later this week. 

Part of the service is relational, especially at nursing homes, where the teens spend time and play games with the elderly. Just spending time with people is important, Holloway said. 

"It's important for them to step outside of their comfort zones and see a community that's very different from theirs," said Holloway. "Lynn is very different from where most of them come from." 

Not only have teens traveled to Lynn, but a group of students from the city served in Niagara Falls earlier this summer through YouthWorks. Holloway considers the mission trips to the city a success. 

"It's done a lot for the community and for the students," she said. 

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