The Salvation Army in Bloomingdale, New Jersey

On Saturday, September 16th, seventy-five teens donned blue shirts and infiltrated some of Bloomingdale, New Jersey’s public spaces. The group from The Salvation Army of Greater New York set out into town to give back through practical service projects. The teens were among 400 at Star Lake Camp for their annual youth retreat, where they engaged in sports, games and the arts, as well as worship and teaching.

The theme for the retreat, “Sorry, Not Sorry,” focused on Romans 1:16-17: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel…”

Under the leadership of Divisional Youth leaders Captains Rohan and Sheila Gage, youth were challenged to step out of their comfort zones and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The worship and teachings with special guests Resound, an acapella group, C3 Youth Choir, BOOTS Step Ministry, and Pastor Jamaal Bernard from the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, along with our Territorial Leaders Commissioners William and Lorraine Bamford, all served to invite the Holy Spirit’s presence and reignite a fire in our young people. Nia Garrett from Newburgh, NY said “I felt the Holy Spirit.” Captain Arlene DiCaterina said “Our youth came back changed and will be sharing their testimonies in our local communities.”

The three projects included beautifying two playgrounds, one at the local Walter T. Bergen Middle School and the other at the town’s historic Delazier Field, which has a football field, basketball court and a playground. The third project was cleaning and painting a wall along Main Street to make sure it was safe and clean for the residents.

“So many of our teens have grown up around playgrounds, mostly in under served neighborhoods, and so for them to give back in this way is good for our neighborhood but mostly good for the teens. They want to serve and will learn important life lessons by doing so,” said Greg Tuck, the administrator of Star Lake Camp and Conference Center.

David Garcia, a 20-year-old from Richmond Hill, Queens, was encouraged by the support of the community around Delazier Field. He shared, “We asked some of the neighbors if they had any extra tools our group could borrow. The neighbors, without thinking twice, ran out to their sheds and garages to look for any tools that we could use. One neighbor even offered us water and sodas after they saw how sweaty we were!”

Julia Paré, 21, of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn said, “Though most of us lacked experience with painting, we quickly jumped into action with enthusiasm. Working hard among friends made the time pass quickly. It was a great opportunity to practice the Biblical command to ‘love our neighbors’ in a very practical and concrete way.”

Commissioner William Bamford, leader of The Salvation Army’s Northeastern United States Territory, shared, “’Mobilizing is our mission. Mobilizing makes a difference. But the young people of Greater New York also showed that mobilizing is fun! They could have made excuses or begged for other options, but what a blessing to see that these delegates chose to exert some energy to help improve the community. Even paint and mulch can show Christ’s love. We thank God for the youth of the Greater New York Division, and for all of the young people of this territory, as they represent great hope for the future.”

Star Lake Camp was founded in 1923 and provides positive camping experiences to over 1,000 at risk children and teens every summer, mostly from the five boroughs of New York City.

Greg Tuck continued, “Service is a hallmark of The Salvation Army, from its first days 150 years ago with the homeless and hungry, until today assisting families affected by the recent hurricanes. Many of these young people here have benefited from a Salvation Army program like an after school center or food pantry. And today, they’re voluntarily giving back. We are all very proud of them.”

During conference season from October to May, Star Lake Camp hosts events, retreats, weddings and meetings on its beautiful 400-acre campus.

For more information on The Salvation Army’s camping, Emergency Disaster Services, and other programming, visit www.salvationarmyny.org.