For her spring break, Catie Smith, 14, couldn't break with a tradition she started last year, participating in Urban Plunge at Messiah Methodist church with 39 other teenagers in Springfield. For five days, the teens and accompanying adults participate in projects to benefit the community.
"I could be in a South Carolina penthouse with my family, on the beach," Catie said. "It's [Urban Plunge] so much fun."
Catie headed off the first morning with Chloe Gould and Emily Ainsworth to work with a group called “Kids Connection” in Washington, D.C.
"We're going to clean up their playground," Catie said.
From Friday, April 2, to Tuesday, April 6, Urban Plunge will be doing projects in the area and coming back to the youth center at Messiah Methodist church for a giant slumber party. Each evening, they planned activities for the teens, including a snack session.
"We always make a midnight run to Krispy Kreme [donuts],” said Sherry Bouley, one of the coordinators. They also go on a pretzel run to Springfield Mall for soft pretzels.
D.C. Central Kitchen supplies the group with dinner one of the nights, as well.
"This is an are way of serving God. It opens their eyes to what is here," said Bouley. “This is our 11th year."
This year, Urban Plunge groups went to Bethany House in Alexandria, Joseph's Coat thrift store in Falls Church, Mason Neck Park to participate in the Potomac River cleanup, and the Northern Virginia Training Center (NVTC) in Fairfax to take some of the children shopping and lunch at Springfield Mall. The teens also sorted food with the Capital Food Bank, worked at the Alzheimer's Family Center and the Rising Hope family shelter in Alexandria. Debbie Meighan, a parent, has worked with NVTC before.
"We did like a field day last time we worked with them," Meighan said.
Donna Robinson arrived Monday, April 5, at 6:15 a.m., to cook pancakes for the group. Robinson's two children, Sarah, 18, and Stephen, 15, participated, as well. She likes the outreach efforts of Urban Plunge.
"It shows them there's a greater world [out there]," Robinson said.
One Urban Plunge group of 27 teens and one adult from Messiah Methodist went to Mexico for the break. That group left from Springfield in a van and drove all the way to Brownsville, Texas, where they stayed for a few nights. Each day, they drove across the border to a town in Mexico, where they taught Bible school and did crafts with the Mexican children.
After the first night in the youth center, sleeping bags strewn about, Chloe Gould, 12, had to come up with an alternative for the next night in a sleeping bag.
"The floor is very hard," she said.