‘The value of giving’

John Kubal/Register: Men from Teen Challenge of the Dakotas turned out in force Friday morning to shovel snow off sidewalks on Main Avenue in downtown Brookings. For the past several years, the free service has been taking place whenever a measurable snowfall hits the city.

Teen Challenge men help shovel out downtown

BROOKINGS – After two full days of stormy winter weather that brought snow with sleet thrown into the mix, Friday morning brought dig-out time to the Brookings area. Everywhere snow-moving machines large and small were pressed into action.

Meanwhile, there were people moving snow the old-fashioned way: with shovels.

The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls and the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network report that the Brookings area received a total of about 8 inches of snow Wednesday and Thursday.

On Main Avenue in downtown Brookings Friday, about a dozen young men from Teen Challenge of the Dakotas were behind shovels clearing sidewalks from storefront to gutter. While not exactly a rite of passage, it’s something men in the TCD program have been doing downtown for many years in the aftermath of heavy snowfall here. And there’s no charge, no compensation.

“It’s about getting out of yourself and helping people in the community and around you, finding your place,” explained the Rev. Michael Gilmartin, executive director of the Brookings-based program of Teen Challenge and himself a graduate of a Teen Challenge program in Philadelphia.

“You’ve got to think about others. That’s our Christian ethic. That’s our pattern. It’s working. It’s teaching men that they’re important, they’re significant. But it’s not all about them. It’s about the value of giving. It’s that simple. These guys are happy to do it; they feel good inside. It’s part of human nature to feel good when you help other people.”

Teen Challenge, Gilmartin continued, is an international faith-based recovery program that, despite its name, focuses on men 18 years and older, average age mid to late 20s. Teen Challenge helps men who are battling addictions and addictive behavior that in some instances have gotten them in trouble with law enforcement.

“We help men with a long-term program of mentoring and character development training,” the director added. “We have great relationships within the court system and within the communities that surround us and all across the state.

“Including our work-study, we’ve been effectively reducing the labor force problem in Brookings for many, many years and we’re recognized for our labor force. A lot of our graduates will remain in the community and work in businesses here.” There are presently 31 men in the Brookings-based program.

Maybe it’s a touch of irony, but one of the shovelers, 21 years old, four months into the Teen Challenge program and no stranger to snow and cold, had never shoveled snow before. A native of Russia, he came to America as an orphan, was adopted and lived in Vermillion and Sioux Falls before finding his way to Teen Challenge.

Contact John Kubal at [email protected]

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