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Sunday Service: Church volunteers help others

Katelyn Keck is no stranger to church-related service projects or missions work.

Keck, of St. Charles, also wants to learn as much as she can about organic farming.

So when the opportunity arose to combine both elements into one Sunday morning, Keck said she couldn't say no to the chance to get to work with other members of her church at the St. Charles Park District's Primrose Farm.

"I'm here with my church family, and I can volunteer and help promote a movement that is just very important, and needs help," said Keck. "It's a good way to spend a Sunday morning."

Sunday, Keck and several dozen other volunteers from Congregational United Church of Christ of St. Charles fanned out into the communities surrounding their church to take part in a variety of service projects.

The effort came through the church's annual "Jesus Has Left the Building" program.

Launched three years ago, the program takes place on a month with five Sundays. On the fifth Sunday, the church substitutes regular Sunday morning worship services with a variety of service projects throughout the Tri-Cities and in surrounding communities.

"It's our church's mission to try and get out into the community and help our fellow neighbors," said Bob Brautigam, a Congregational UCC member who helped coordinate the projects this year.

This year, the church sent teams of volunteers, ranging in size from 4-16 workers, to a variety of sites to perform yard work and home repairs for needy church members and others in the community; to help the residents with severe disabilities who live at Marklund Hyde Center near Mill Creek play a unique brand of baseball; to clear and beautify community open space and cemeteries; to do some grounds work at Anderson Animal Shelter in South Elgin; and to spread mulch around trees at Primrose Farm, among other community service projects.

Eight volunteers were dispatched to Primrose, to assist workers there with the work of keeping up the publicly-owned working farm, dedicated to preserving and demonstrating various skills and farming techniques from the early 20th Century.

Peter Ball, of Elburn, captain of the church's Primrose Farm volunteer team, said the work is important to the church and the community.

"The statement we're making is to love thy neighbor," Ball said. "And so we're trying to be neighborly and to help people.

"We'd like to do it more."

Keck said this year marked her first time participating in this particular project, though she has volunteered, first as a high school student and later as an adult, on various church missions projects in Chicago and elsewhere in the U.S.

She said experiencing Primrose has prompted her to consider volunteering individually at the farm more regularly.

"I felt for a while that any type of organic farming is important," Keck said. "Plus, it's nice to be outside."

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