For more than three decades the Hartford Community Church [HCC] has hosted a youth group from the Westminster Presbyterian Church [WPC] of Buffalo New York who have come to the Hartford area offering helping hands, financial assistance and an eagerness to experience rural Maine. Mission trips to Maine are not uncommon. "City youth” from the Buffalo area have learned about and given of themselves to those less fortunate while putting God’s love into action through outreach.
Not too long ago HCC had a very active Sunday school and VBS program. Unfortunately, Hartford Church is not that different from many churches today and our congregation is aging. We are not attracting young families with children. So when Ron Darling (HCC member and former Sunday School teacher) put together the first August mission trip in 2009 taking five “rural kids” to the city and surrounds of Buffalo New York, our congregation eagerly supported this youth mission trip. Ron said “I wanted to repay the WPC community for all the years that their young people have come here to help the people in our area”. Our youth, now known as "The Bisons" have helped prepare and serve food in soup kitchens, sort and box food for local food pantries, assisted in rehabbing subsidized dwellings and participated in a number of ways in a refugee center in Buffalo. From the five youth and three dedicated leaderswho made the trip in 2009, this group has more than quadrupled (24 individuals) in six years with 12 youth, 4 adults and 4 youth leaders making the trip to Buffalo in the summer of 2014.
About a quarter of the Bison Youth Group and its leaders are members of the HCC, a similar number attend nearby churches and probably half of the group has no church affiliation. Our congregation has supported this group for more than five years with fundraising, individual financial support and encouragement, suggestions and "hands-on participation". The HCC Session officially affirms and endorses the Maine Bison Youth Group mission grant applications and fundraising projects to pay for The Bison annual mission trip to New York (approximately $7,000/year).
Having participated in New Beginnings, our congregation continues to seek ways to share God’s love within our community and through outreach, such as the Bison Youth Group, answer God’s call to minister to our youth of today.
As a mission of the Presbyterian Church (USA), contributions made to Mission at the Eastward are deductible by the donors as provided by section 170 of the Code. Bequests, legacies, devises, transfers, or gifts, to or for the use of Mission at the Eastward are deductible for Federal estate and gift tax purposes as provided by sections 2055, 2106 and 2522 of the Code.