All roads lead to Fairhaven School.
Last week, Gospel Road — a group of Columbus Dioceses Catholic-sponsored youth who spend their summer helping others — made their way to Madison County.
The contingent of approximately 200 teenagers were accompanied by adult supervisors and performed community service work at more than 30 sites throughout Madison, Franklin and Union counties.
This is the 10th year of Gospel Road — an appropriate name since the youngsters hit the streets to spread their mission through community service. The program is spearheaded each year by whichever youth minister throughout Ohio wants to take on the project. This summer it is being led by Kelly Jacobs, director of Religious Education and Youth Ministry at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Plain City.
Jacobs said she sent out about 200 letters at the beginning of the year asking businesses, schools and organizations if they would be interested in being a stop on the Gospel Road.
“I see the good that it has done in the past, and I wanted to see it in our county,” Jacobs said. “These are incoming ninth-graders through those who have recently graduated high school who want to help others.”
One such letter came to the Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD). MCBDD Organization Services Director John LaCivita immediately thought of Fairhaven, a school that houses preschool age students, Head Start, and the Early Intervention Program.
An idea LaCivita had was to have murals painted in the school’s hallways. Upon inquiring further, it was discovered that Gospel Road had a dozen or so teenagers who were budding artists, making them perfect for this project. They were supervised on-site by youth minister Kathie Rath, who assisted LaCivita with the coordination of the project long before the first brush stroke was made at Fairhaven. Rath was assisted on-site by adults Linda Hall and Sean Robinson.
With characters ranging from Cat in the Hat to Shrek to the Hungry Caterpillar shining in living colors throughout the hallways, the Fairhaven students will have an unexpected surprise when they return to classes next month. The group at Fairhaven included St. Patrick School graduate Alex Coates.
“The Gospel Road group showed not only amazing talent and creativity, but commendable teamwork and sense of community,” LaCivita said. “The students and youth ministers worked hard to create an expression of wonder that the children and families will no doubt find welcoming them when they start school this year.”
Many preparations were made before the Gospel Road artists arrived at the MCBDD school. Pre-painting of hallway walls and replacement of ceiling tiles were by MCBDD maintenance and custodial staffs, who were aided by three youngsters in the Madison County Department of Job and Family Services Summer Youth Work Program, as well as a pair of volunteers.
“The efforts of the summer youth workers and volunteers helped our maintenance and custodial staff give the school a much needed facelift,” LaCivita said. “Their efforts enabled this to be done in one summer and in a very cost effective manner.”
According to Jacobs, the Gospel Road teens are scattered at places throughout London, Plain City, Marysville, and West Columbus. In addition to painting Fairhaven, Jacobs said there were different groups of youth doing yard work, spending time with the elderly, washing windows, building ramps, delivering Meals-on-Wheels, and a contingent fixing the art trailer at MATCO Services, Inc.
Throughout the week, the students and adults called London’s St. Patrick School their home. With a brand new parish activity and recreation center, St. Pats was more than willing to be the home base.
“They did not hesitate to help us when we needed it,” Jacobs said of St. Patrick School.
And the same can be said by those who have benefitted from the good work of Gospel Road.