- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) - From box to box, the eighth-grader was separating donated goods to their designated places. Hand sanitizer, deodorant, soap and cologne all had a spot, and Josh Whitten figured out where it belonged.

While some of his cohorts were on vacation or enjoying time off on their spring break, Whitten and 15 other Christian Academy of Indiana students volunteered their time at Jesus Cares at Exit 0 on Monday.

“I just felt that it was the right thing to do and that God would want me to do this to serve others,” Whitten told the News and Tribune (https://bit.ly/1CYxIfw ).

As part of the school’s annual local mission work done over the break, high school and middle school-aged students volunteered to help sort and organize donations at Exit 0’s distribution center in Jeffersonville.

Paul Stensrud, director of Exit 0, said since his entire operation works off of volunteers, having a group come in to help make room as they prepare for more donations helps his organization a lot. He also said it’s good to see young people stepping up to do help their communities.

“I think it’s incredible due to the fact that these kids get it,” Stensrud said. “They’re not out there talking about helping the community, they’re out here doing it.”

Stensrud had students organizing food, folding up and putting away clothing and also portioning out servings of dog food. He said some homeless people keep pets that also need to be fed.

Leah Ryan, a health and physical education teacher at the school, was one of the chaperones on Monday. She said the school has helped Exit 0 with clothing and food drives in years past, but it has never taken its spring break mission work there.

She said the school has a group of students in Honduras over spring break as well, but local mission work has just as big an effect on students as national or international work does.

“I think it’s great when they can do mission work nearby because they get to see how it impacts their community,” Ryan said. “When they go overseas, they might come back and just have the memories, but here, they have a constant reminder of the impact of their work.”

She said while mission trips out of the area give students a chance to travel, it’s also kind of hard to afford very many of those, and for some, it’s a little scary to think about.

“A lot of times, if it’s outside of your community, it’s kind of intimidating,” Ryan said. “I think more kids are willing to step up and do mission work if it’s nearby.”

Students will also visit other volunteer groups in the region, including Refuge Louisville, the Louisville Rescue Mission and Choices for Women crisis pregnancy center in New Albany.

Stensrud said he’s glad to see young people help out locally and hopes they carry that habit over into adulthood.

“They’re going to be our next leaders in the community,” Stensrud said. “Imagine what they can do when they’re older.”


Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., https://www.newsandtribune.com

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