Approximately 260 youth participated in Dream Center Peoria’s Mission Peoria week-long mission camp. One group of 16 youth volunteered at the future home of Teen Challenge Illinois located at 2400 N. 8th St. in Pekin on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings this week.

The Mission Peoria group in Pekin was one of 15 teams in the area helping. This was the only site in Pekin. Other teams helped at 13 other locations including Taft Homes, The Christian Center and the Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service, all in Peoria. 

They spent the mornings from 9 a.m. until noon pulling weeds, helping with general landscaping and prepping the parking lot at the Pekin site. 

Abijah Lowe, 26, of Canton is part of the ACE (Active Christian Evangelist) Team leading the younger volunteers with Mission Peoria. He said that the ACE Team program came from England. The idea is for young people to do this during their “gap year” whether before or after college and then head into a career in ministry.

Lowe said that the work they did this week will save Teen Challenge Illinois approximately $50,000 on costs to reseal the parking lot instead of repaving it.

Joe Rogers is the director of Operations at Teen Challenge Illinois in Pekin. He said Teen Challenge is a faith-based residential treatment facility for males only. When the facility opens it will serve up to 40 men at a time. 

“Their help is huge for us because we get a lot done with volunteer work and donations. We will use the money (we saved) elsewhere in renovations,” said Rogers. “We are happy to be able to share this opportunity with our future leaders. It will be great when we open because we can help so many men. It will be helpful with the opioid crisis.”

Sydney Sturm of Elmwood is another member of the ACE Team. It is her second year with Mission Peoria. The 19-year-old said she got involved after realizing she was “following the wrong crowd.” She wanted to grow her relationship with God. 

Sturm said the program has helped her get a better sense of what she wants to do in life. While she is still undecided she thinks she wants to continue her work with homeless people at Dream Center Peoria. 

The volunteers spent Thursday back at the Dream Center in Peoria going through a poverty simulation. Brayden Olomon, 13, of Marquette Heights said the simulation was eye-opening. 

“The poverty simulation gave us a sense of what some people deal with on a regular basis,” he said.

This is his second summer volunteering with Mission Peoria and he said it was fun to help with this project. He plans to do it again next summer.

As the youth group worked many of them wore T-shirts with the phrase “Not Alone” written on the back. It was their theme for the week. While they spent mornings doing volunteer service projects and the afternoons providing activities in neighborhoods throughout Peoria and East Peoria, the message reminded them they are not alone in life.

Lowe said there is another Mission Peoria program starting in late September and that they are currently looking for volunteers. Those interested may contact The Dream Center at 676-3000.