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Presbyterian Giving Catalog makes giving as easy as pie for Washington state youth


Ecumenical youth group cooks up recipe for fundraising success and big impact through the catalog

by Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service

Youth affiliated with First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen, Washington, recently raised $5,000, enough to fund the Community Farm Bundle in the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. (Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen)

LOUISVILLE — While they may not agree on pumpkin or pecan, the youth group of First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen in Washington knows that the way to their congregation’s heart is through its stomach.

And they’ve got the bake sale receipts — $5,000 worth — to prove it.

The remarkably successful campaign, which was launched some four years ago when 15-year-old Judy Light, daughter of volunteer youth group advisors Scott and Aries Light, happened to find a copy of the  Presbyterian Giving Catalog.

“Because my mom is our church’s office manager, I used to spend summers in the church doing odd jobs in the office,” said Judy Light, who was then in middle school and is now a rising high school sophomore. “When I would get done, I started looking at these catalogs. Then I remembered we were talking about projects we could do as a youth group, and I thought this is something that could really help people.”

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2024, the increasingly popular Presbyterian Giving Catalog — which is available both in print and online, in English, Spanish and Korean — is filled with a wide variety of gifts that provide real and positive impact around the world, including agricultural tools and training, livestock, aid kits, access to clean water and helping to end hunger.

One of those gifts, the Community Farm Bundle — which includes enough livestock, tools and training to support a larger farm that can serve an entire community — really captured the youth group’s imagination, even though Aberdeen is primarily a logging not a farming community.

Because the $5,000 cost for the Community Farm Bundle struck Aries Light as an ambitious first-time fundraising goal for such a small youth group, she was initially concerned.

“Although we wanted to do something big for the benefit of lot of people and make a gift that would be long lasting, I didn’t want anyone to get disappointed if they didn’t raise that amount,” she said.

She needn’t have worried.

Fundraising efforts came together at First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen, Washington, allowing the youth to purchase the Community Farm Bundle featured in the Presbyterian Giving Catalog.

“The kids put a lot of thought into it,” added Scott Light, “and they were able to exceed all expectations.”

Teresa Mader, project manager for the Presbyterian Giving Catalog, said that the youth group’s Community Farm Bundle was the church’s first-ever gift through the Giving Catalog.

“They set a goal and accomplished it,” she said, “which resulted in the church’s largest gift on record with the Presbyterian Mission Agency.”

An art sale hosted by the youth of First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen boosted the youths’ fundraising efforts. (Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen)

While donations came in through car washes, selling handmade Christmas decorations and “fruit of the Spirit” ornaments as well as other fundraisers, some of the biggest individual gifts toward the Community Farm Bundle came in from the sale of baked goods — particularly pies.

In fact, the Rev. Dr. Chuck Guth — who has served as the church’s pastor for a little more than a year — said that watching the youth group’s videos while he was still in the process of discerning a call to First Presbyterian Church really told him “something about the congregation.”

Through their fundraising efforts, youth at First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen, Washington, became skilled pie makers. (Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen)

“It’s certainly something that the congregation really embraced,” said Guth. “Because the church wanted to see the youth succeed, they were buying pies at truly outlandish prices, $50 or $60 a pie. They were behind them 100%.”

Although the youth group’s first bake sale also boasted a grasshopper cake, plates of cookies and Judy Light’s famous triple chocolate brownie sheet cake, the pies took the prize.

They even inspired a youth group activity.

“For the bake sale, we invited people who were expert pie makers,” Scott Light said. “They even came in on a Saturday to teach the kids how to make pies. Stuff like that has been really helpful.”

In a recent telephone conversation with the Rev. Jeanie Shaw, ministry engagement advisor for the Synods of Alaska-Northwest, Pacific, and Southern California & Hawaii, Aries Light said that at some of the bake sales, people even bought whole pies for as much as $200, ensuring that the youth group would have the funds to support the Presbyterian Giving Catalog.

“Additionally, once they began having a more mission oriented youth group,” Shaw added, “the group started growing! The Lights even bought a larger car so all the kids could fit in for their mission projects.”

Among the youth group’s — and now the church’s — newest members is 16-year-old William Sharpe, who was baptized and confirmed last week.

“That wouldn’t have happened if Judy hadn’t invited him during this time,” said Scott Light.

A pair of car washes hosted by the youth of First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen, Washington, contributed mightily to the purchase of the Community Farm Bundle from the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. (Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen, Washington)

Light added that the small congregation in Olympia Presbytery probably brought in the most money from the youth group’s two car washes.

“And although we didn’t seem to gain any lasting congregants from our car washes, it was a great way to connect with people from our community,” he said. “While the kids washed their cars, I would sell them a barbecued hot dog and chat with them for a bit.”

Adding to Light’s evangelistic enthusiasm was Sharpe’s own extroverted exuberance.

“I was out on the streets with Xander [Eilers] yelling at people, telling them to get their cars washed,” said Sharpe.

Eilers — Sharpe’s able accomplice in recruiting car wash customers — is a rising high school sophomore from First United Christian Church, Aberdeen. He is among some of the group’s ecumenical members, as are Madison Winter, also a rising sophomore from Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, and 14-year-old Emily Barrea-Soloreano, a member of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church.

“Whenever [my friend] Judy tells me about something, I say, ‘Yes let’s do it,’” Barrea-Soloreano said. “When I got to the church, I didn’t know we were doing this Giving Catalog project, but it’s nice to help people.”

In recent years, the youth group has also helped members of the congregation by delivering flowers and doing home visits. And they’re already thinking about their next big mission challenge.

“I know it’s been mentioned but we’re talking about doing a mission trip,” Judy Light said. “Disaster aid relief is also an idea because there are so many countries affected by wildfires and earthquakes.”

Whatever projects the youth group chooses in the future, the congregation is ready to step up.

“This is absolutely a church that cares about supporting our youth,” Guth said. “It’s been so encouraging for me to see the congregation get behind them.”

Won‘t you join First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen by making a gift through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog that spreads hope and helps create lasting, positive change around the world?

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