Iowa Church Helps Teens Fulfill Community Service Hours

Grace Fellowship Church in Pella offers students creative opportunities to complete community service hours.

One Iowa teen swept a spotless police station floor because he needed service hours—not because the floor needed work.

“How useful do you feel sweeping a floor that’s not even dirty?” asks Danielle DeRuiter, who started Project Second Chance.

She offered the 16-year-old sweeper more satisfying work.

When the teen arrived to help the youth group at DeRuiter’s Grace Fellowship Church, average attendance 95, DeRuiter learned he could juggle. He did, children loved it and he felt valued.

“It was just amazing to watch him do something he was good at,” DeRuiter says. “Kids just ate that up.”

Youth in trouble with the law struggle to fulfill service hours in the small, rural town of Pella, Iowa. An official told one teen to sit on a bench and do homework.

“It just got me thinking there’s got to be a better way,” DeRuiter says.

Her church found a solution in February 2015 with a grant through the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Now, they mentor teens whom they pray with and love.

“The last thing we want to do is scare them off,” DeRuiter says.

The church gives them rides and helps them through the judicial process.

Teens’ offenses range from underage drinking to theft of thousands of dollars from family members.

But through Project Second Chance, they do things like paint, or help with youth gatherings at church, working alongside adults.

One participant now attends Sunday services, and his brother joined the youth group.

Service work can foster anger and feelings of worthlessness, according to DeRuiter. But she likes when both parties benefit.

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The young sweeper walked into church feeling uncomfortable, but left esteemed.

“He was totally giving his time in a completely different way,” DeRuiter says.

At the same time, the church makes a positive impact on youth and gets needed help.

“It probably helps us more than the participants,” she says.

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