Local teen leads others to see, meet needs

Monthly outings serve young and old

By Nancy Lee Bethea
Resident Community News

In many ways, Kelsey Ellis typifies the Millennial Generation – people born between 1980 and 2000. She’s optimistic and diligent, and she values people and community. In April, Ellis started Monthly Youth Outings, or Mo.YO.

Mo.YO’s mission is to give high school students opportunities to use their gifts, talents and skills to meet the needs of others in the community. Fun, food and fellowship are also part of Mo.YO.

Kelsey Ellis, 18, pulls weeds as part of the September 2013 Mo.YO. After collecting items to fill care packages for military personnel, Ellis and her youth group did voluntary work in the yard of a recent widow

Kelsey Ellis, 18, pulls weeds as part of the September 2013 Mo.YO. After collecting items to fill care packages for military personnel, Ellis and her youth group did voluntary work in the yard of a recent widow

San Marco resident Emily Davis stands near boxes of tote bags filled with toiletries, first aid kits, new water bottles and more for the homeless at Clara White Mission. Davis helped coordinate the November 2013 Mo.YO with Kelsey Ellis

San Marco resident Emily Davis stands near boxes of tote bags filled with toiletries, first aid kits, new water bottles and more for the homeless at Clara White Mission. Davis helped coordinate the November 2013 Mo.YO with Kelsey Ellis

Dalton Gray, a Murray Hill sophomore at Lee High School, works a ladybug costume at the October 2013 Mo.YO Fall Festival. Gray and other teens modeled Halloween costumes at the event

Dalton Gray, a Murray Hill sophomore at Lee High School, works a ladybug costume at the October 2013 Mo.YO Fall Festival. Gray and other teens modeled Halloween costumes at the event

Ellis, a member of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, started the meetings so her church youth group could have more opportunities for outreach. Mo.YO is open to any high school teen in the region.

At the April Mo.YO meeting, two groups of teens met simultaneously to complete different service projects. After eating breakfast together, the first group made cards and took them to a Jacksonville nursing home. While there, students sang songs, prayed and shared stories with patients. The second group pulled weeds, raked leaves and trimmed bushes at an elderly couple’s home. Then, both groups met for lunch, worship music, a time of devotion and games at Ellis’ home.

July’s Mo.YO event raised awareness and donations for Rethreaded, a faith-based organization helping women exit lives of addiction, violence, prostitution and human trafficking. After researching and praying for the organization, students donated T-shirts for Rethreaded participants to fashion into new creations.
At the August Mo.YO, teens wrote letters welcoming upcoming freshmen to their church youth group. “It’s neat to see high school guys write a letter of encouragement,” Ellis said. A few weeks after the letters were mailed, the older kids followed up with the freshmen they had contacted.

“I always try to put myself in their position,” Ellis said of the freshmen. “I’ll be a college freshman next year.”
Ellis, a Northside resident and home school student, credits her family for teaching her to serve others. “Growing up, our family always did ministry days with our [home school] co-op,” Ellis said. Ministry days gave her a sensitivity to see and meet the needs of others.

Though Ellis loves planning the monthly events, she’s learned the value of delegation. “The Lord’s been teaching me to let others help out,” she said. “It goes way better.”
Emily Davis, 17, is a San Marco resident and a senior at Stanton College Preparatory School. She helped Ellis organize Totes Fab, the November Mo.YO project. Teens filled 51 tote bags with first aid kits, toiletries, hair brushes, combs, wash cloths, refillable water bottles and more, and donated them to homeless people at the Clara White Mission in downtown Jacksonville. Like Ellis, Davis enjoys serving others.

In addition to helping Ellis with Mo.YO, Davis has seen serving others at home, too. Her older sister volunteered at Mission Year in Atlanta, GA, last summer. “Mission Year’s emphasis is to love God, love people,” Davis said. “Mo.YO is the same. Our emphasis is love people, love community, and I love loving back our
community.”

Another way Davis loves the community is by volunteering at Sanctuary on 8th Street located in Springfield. “I help with an after-school program,” Davis said. “We play outside and help with homework.”

Dalton Gray, 16, a Murray Hill resident and sophomore at Lee High School, is another student who attends Mo.YO. “I like to hang out with friends and the fellowship,” Gray said of the meetings.

The most memorable Mo.YO so far, according to Gray, was when the group went ice skating in June. “It was my first time ice skating,” he said. “I fell a lot. My butt got sore.”
While Gray enjoys socializing with his friends at the meetings, he also appreciates the chance to volunteer in various ways and places. He can tell people are grateful for the Mo.YO kids’ help by watching their facial expressions, he said.
“I get a sense of achievement from serving others because I know I’m helping someone else for the good,” Davis said.

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