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By Debbie Cox

This is the first time in 23 years I have taken middle school youth on a summer experience. I decided to do it this year and wanted to take them to Robbinsville, NC from July 10-13, since Trinity has had a connection with this community for the past year. Tom Goodrich, who heads up the Appalachian Regional Ministry, and other Trinity volunteers go out once a month to help unpack big boxes of Manna produce and repackage it for individual family members. They also help cook a meal for 300 people. Every Wednesday, Liberty Missionary Church gives a free meal to the community from 5:00-7:00 pm. We were joined by Adults: Debbie Cox, Elleveve Donahue, and Jim Boyer. Middle School Youth: Catherine Donahue, William Whisnant, Collin McCormick, Sam Pass, Ashe Hornthal, Amber Guzy and Austin Guzy. Here is our 3-day experience in Robbinsville.

Day One: We left Trinity Episcopal Church around 9:30 am and went straight to the community garden in downtown Robbinsville, NC. We were greeted by Erin Emmons, who runs the Church Mouse Thrift Store and the community garden. We started pulling weeds and learning

about what the garden provides for the community – food and a place for some members of the community to have their own garden. It is a beautiful space in the heart of the town. After a lunch break, we visited Grace Mountainside, a joint Lutheran/Episcopal Church in the Diocese of WNC. This church makes a significant impact in Robbinsville and Graham County, which I will talk about later. We then checked into the hotel and had dinner. Afterward, we hiked the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. The hike is a walk back in time, through towering trees hundreds of years old, with ferns, wildflowers, and moss-covered logs carpeting the ground. It was a beautiful hike! During a quick stop at Ingles for snacks, a lady who worked there learned about our mission and generously gave us $5.00 as a contribution. It was a touching "God Moment" for me, as she offered help despite her own needs. Our evening devotional centered on the Book of James, and the journal reflection was about perseverance, which felt apt for our first day in Robbinsville.

Day Two: We met Eric Reece, the pastor of the United Methodist Church in Robbinsville. We went to one of the parishioner's houses of the United Methodist Church, where a lady named Mary Ann lived. We helped by picking up sticks and washing windows in her beautiful yard filled with flowers. Mary Ann shared wise words, emphasizing that if we take care of the earth, it will take care of us. After a picnic lunch, we went to Fontana Village and spent a couple of hours at the pool, followed by some fun at the arcade. Later in the afternoon, we went on the Fontana Lake Tour, where we learned about the history of the lake and the dam, including its role in supporting the war effort during WWII. In the evening, we had dinner and discussed being people of integrity, focusing on James 1:22 - "But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves." We balanced our service for others in need with some enjoyable activities in the area.

Day Three: We visited another parishioner's home from the United Methodist Church, named June. The youth worked together to clean out her flower beds, which she couldn't do due to back issues. Their determination paid off as they successfully removed a stubborn tree root from June's yard. Afterward, we went to the Church Mouse Thrift Store to clean, sort, and organize. This thrift store, which began in the basement of Grace Mountainside Church, has grown into a major thrift store funding numerous efforts to improve the lives of many, including the backpack snack and school lunch programs for Robbinsville schools, the Knights Pantry emergency initiative, the Grace Soup Kitchen, Graham United, and The Greater Good Community Garden. Our next stop was at Liberty Missionary Church, where we helped prepare the Wednesday meal they serve to the community every week. We cooked and boxed meals for the first hour and served 200 meals, witnessing the community's dependence on this weekly support. That evening, we celebrated Sam's 12th birthday with a taco dinner. Our final devotion focused on "taming the tongue" and the importance of using our words to build others up rather than tearing them down. The middle school youth learned about the impact their words can have on others.

This trip was a big success! These middle school youth had a great experience in Robbinsville! I want to thank Amy Peterson and Ken Wilson for the devotional book. I also want to extend my gratitude to the adults who chaperoned with me, Elleveve Donahue and Jim Boyer. The middle school youth worked really hard and served and loved the people of Robbinsville! Thank you, Trinity, for your support!

Do you have something wonderful to share? An interesting story? Celebrating a momentous occasion? Please reach out to Nanette by email: to be featured in your own edition of Stories that Matter.


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