by Stefanie Sears
Reverend Jeff Gargano and nine young members of The Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns spent a week of their summer (July 20-July 27) participating in Helping Hands for Haiti.
The teens, Katie Miles, Kevon Lewis, Matt Bischof, Jack Steurer, Juliette Phillips, Tesher Zafrin, Hunter Burnett, Owen Steele, and Nathan Gargano, volunteered while learning about Haiti’s culture and customs. Their volunteer opportunities included distributing food to families, providing childcare, connecting with residents, and especially installing concrete floors in homes.
Six of the youths (Lewis, Steurer, Phillips, Zafrin, Burnett, and Nathan Gargano) had visited the Dominican Republic last year for the same purpose, since the Dominican Republic had been the destination of the church’s mission trips the last three years. Reverend Jeff Gargano brought this youth volunteer effort to fruition at The Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns since he had made several similar trips while a pastor of the Reformed Church on the island of St. Thomas. This year was the group’s first time going to Haiti and collaborating with Helping Hands for Haiti.
“The six teenagers have developed real friendships because of the bond they formed from past mission trips, and consequently have extended the invitation to some of their friends who are now also becoming active in the church. We hope that the experiences through these mission trips prove valuable and life-changing,” said the church’s governing board Consistory Vice President Renee Chillemi.
The group held fundraisers for their volunteer venture – a car wash, ice cream social, crowdfunding on GoFundMe, and sought donations, raising almost $14,000.
Several Reformed, Christian Reformed, and Lutheran churches, particularly those in the Midwest, support Helping Hands for Haiti as well.