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'A safe place for students': Young Life celebrates 10 years in Hastings

Young Life poses for a photo during a club night. Submitted photo

Hastings Young Life celebrated 10 years in the community at their banquet celebration Oct. 30. While the Hastings nonprofit is only a decade old, the Young Life organization has been around since the 1940s. It began in Texas as a club with an emphasis on showing kids that faith in God can be not only fun, but exhilarating and life changing.

The club's vision is to introduce kids to Jesus, help them grow in their faith and have fun while doing it. There are about 200 Hastings students who participate in Young Life throughout the year.

The group first started when several adults in the community came together with a similar goal.

"It was really meant to be a safe place for students to get together," said Brenda Van Vossen, one of the adults who helped bring Young Life to Hastings.

Funds were raised, the first director was selected and then a meeting location was found. Jim and Paula Weinzettel offered up their barn as the designated meeting place for Young Life participants. The barn wasn't initially built for that purpose; in fact, Paula said that she remembers it being built and thinking the barn was way too big.

"Low and behold, the Lord had a plan because shortly after Young Life moved in," Paula said.

The Weinzettel's barn is in close proximity to the high school, which made it a great place for the weekly club meetings. Jim said that the group has really grown over the last ten years. Paula agreed with that assessment and added that it has been a great joy to see cars lining up each week as students join in at Young Life club nights.

Grace Daggett is a former Young Life student and after leaving for college at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, she came back as a leader. She said that the club gives students a safe place to be with friends once a week. It was somewhere where she felt wanted as a student.

"People were excited to see me every single week and now I get to do the same for these students," Daggett said.

As a Young Life leader she has the opportunity to connect with students who walk the same halls and had the same teachers that she once did. When she was a student, Daggett said that she was insecure and wasn't following the best path. However, she said that her leaders showed her a better way and taught her what a life with Jesus looks like.

"Students deserve to be known and cared for and I want to help make that a reality for them," she said.

Paula Scharfe was first introduced to Young Life when a friend brought her to a Young Life fall camp. She fell in love with it and started going to club nights each week. Club nights might include dancing, playing games or another activity with a message about God at the end of the night.

"It strengthened my faith because for the first time it made me realize that a relationship with God can actually be exciting," she said.

Bruce Dorman became area director for Hastings Young Life in spring 2016. He said that his vision for the future of the club is to "keep growing the club and being intentional in kids' lives where they feel valued."

Since starting as area director, Dorman said that he has already discovered how much the community supports Young Life in the community. When he first started, he didn't know anyone's name in the community being that he currently lives in Farmington. However, a large number of people new his name and would introduce themselves to him in the first few months.

"It just goes to show how established Young Life is in the community," Dorman said.

Young Life is a nonprofit organization and without the donors and people in the community, Dorman said they wouldn't be able to do what they do.

For more information about Young Life, visit www.hastings.younglife.org.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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