If you have seen youth wearing lime green and grey t-shirts working around Ames, Story City and Roland, on any given Wednesday this July, then you’ve seen Story County’s ministry program, called Summer Stretch.

Summer Stretch began with one congregation in Burnsville, Minnesota 22 years ago. This year Summer Stretch has expanded to be a cooperative arrangement of over 80+ congregations in the Twin Cities, Wisconsin and Iowa bringing together several thousand junior and senior high youth one day a week to work in their communities as servants of Christ, and to have a lot of fun doing it.

The leaders behind this program are Youth and Family Ministry staff from First United Methodist, Collegiate Presbyterian, and St. John’s Episcopal from Ames and St. Petri Lutheran in Story City and Bergen Lutheran in Roland. The program has been a part of Story County for four years and this year we have our highest number of participants; 46 middle school youth and 7 high school youth.

"Summer Stretch allows middle school youth to come together in small groups, to worship and have Bible study and to sample a variety of places to serve, to have fun together, and to make a difference in Jesus’ name," said Kristin Johnson, Youth Director from St. Petri Lutheran and Bergen Lutheran congregations. "It’s also an opportunity for high school youth to mentor small groups, and to lead by example, while getting training and excellent ministry experience. And it welcomes adults to help make it happen by driving youth from work sites to the afternoon activities."

Summer Stretch participants can be found at many sites around Story County including recycling with the Kiwanis in both Story City and in Roland, visiting with patrons at Green Hills Senior Center and playing games with patrons at Friendship Ark n Ames. The youth have also been helping at Goodwill in Ames and Affordable’s in Story City. "These are just a few of the things we’ve done," said Johnson, "we’ve also helped paint playground equipment at Roland-Story Elementary school as well as delivering cookies to shut-ins."

Though Johnson argues that the entire day is a fun experience, the Summer Stretch participants end their days with group activities geared more toward fellowship and recreation. Events have included a trip to Furman Water Park, bowling at the MU on Iowa State’s campus, and even a trip planned for Hickory Grove Park.

Story County Summer Stretch began on Wednesday, July 3rd and will run through July 31st. Each session, hosted by the five different churches each week, begins at 9 a.m. and wraps up at 4 p.m. The group will end their summer with a trip to Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa on Wednesday, July 31st.