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Teens and paint brushes: spreading the good word PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, July 09, 2013 2:34 PM

This team of TeenServe workers stand outside Anita Siems’ house south of Crystal Falls. On top is adult leader Chris Berenz of Wausau, Wis. From left: Hannah Woodmansee of Bruce, Wis.; Sully Spratte from Zumbrota, Minn.; Mrs. Siems; Madison Yoki, Clearwater, Minn.; MaryEllen Raverty, Mankato, Minn.; Jami DeCook, New Sharon, Iowa; and Ryan Karow, New London, Wis.
CRYSTAL FALLS—Near the end of a dead-end road south of town, something nice happened last month. Anita Siems’ house got painted up, all fresh and new.
Even better, she didn’t have to hire contractors to do the work. Some dedicated teens came for a week. By the time they left, the house was looking pretty good.
The teens, who hailed from western Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, were here as part of a one-week TeenServe work camp, in which 369 teens came to the area (staying at North Dickinson High School) and worked on about 70 homes within 25 miles of the school—at no cost to the homeowner.
“I’m No. 28,” said Mrs. Siems.
TeenServe started in 1999 and since then has held 44 work camps in 31 locations. Over 10,000 teens have worked on nearly 1,900 homes. Find out more at
Add Mrs. Siems’ home to the list. Like the other homeowners who get involved in the program, they are not able to do the work themselves due to physical of financial limits.
That’s where TeenServe comes in. Each day for a week, a team of six teens visited Mrs. Siems. They came to work, and a half dozen teens armed with paint brushes can do a lot in a week.
She found out about TeenServe from a friend who lives near North Dickinson. “She went to a meeting,” she explained, “gave them my name, and I met with some of the adults from Foster City and Felch” about income and how long since the house was last painted.
“These children are out doing this wonderful thing to help people who need it, and boy, they’ve been doing a job here.” If the project isn’t completed by the end of the week, workers from the local Habitat for Humanity office finish the work.
“It’s been wonderful,” she added. “Especially when they got the bats awake and had them flying around the house in the middle of the afternoon.” The bats made their appearance on a Monday afternoon and eventually flew off.
For the first few days, she said, it was fairly quiet. “Now we’ve all been talking. By tomorrow, we’ll be great friends, and I’m going to miss them terribly.
“Wonderful kids. I’ve been so blessed to have them come into my life. I’d love to keep them!”
Chris Berenz of Wausau, Wis., an adult leader, was invited to TeenServe by her granddaughters. “They needed a female counselor, so they asked grandma to come. That was my invitation to serve. It’s been a great experience.”
Part of that experience is seeing the teens go into the home of a complete stranger and work really hard. “They take a lot from Anita, and they’re giving her a lot back. So it’s very rewarding for us.”
The teens didn’t know each other before going on TeenServe, so they are learning about each other, too. They come from a number of different Christian faiths
Ryan Karow of New London, Wis., is the crew leader, and he’s a natural: He works with a painting company during summer.
A few years back, his teen leader asked him if he wanted to go on the mission trip. “I wasn’t really sure at first,” he went on. “I kind of caved in and thought I’d give it a chance.”
Now he’s in his sixth year. “I keep coming back because I just enjoy it so much,” because of the relationships that form among crew members and the residents he has met. “Really, just deepening my faith in God and strengthening my relationship with him.”
Each night, the teens returned to North Dickinson, where they hear a guest speaker, who talks about strengthening the teens’ relationship with God. “Not worrying about the things of this world but really focusing on him.” They also took part in a music service by Phil Joel, a former member of the Newsboys rock band.
Madison Yoki, 14, of Clearwater, Minn., was doing her first TeenServe. “They didn’t tell me much about it,” she said. “All they told me was painting houses and helping people.
“I tried it out, and I like it.”
Sully Spratte of Zumbrota, Minn.. is in his fifth year. “It’s partly because of the evening programs and the devotions and everything that strengthens your faith.
“The main reason is really helping the residents. Throughout the years, each resident has had a different reaction to what we’ve done. Just meeting new people, forming those relationships and seeing how much they appreciate what you do.”
All the students got to know Anita—and the resident canine population, which includes her old bassett, Angel, and a pair of puggles (a pug-beagle mix), Matty and Mugsy. “They greet us every morning.”
The day’s schedule includes devotions in the morning and at lunchtime. “We are immersed in learning about God and strengthening our faith and learning about outreach,” Berenz explained. “This is something kids are doing.”
“That is something we talked about yesterday,” Mrs. Siems said. “You don’t hear enough about what the young people do that is so good. There are a whole bunch of good kids out there who deserve some recognition.”