[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]NEWTON — Barb Dehne doesn’t have any children in her parish’s youth group, Optimistic Teens Improving Society (OTIS).
But that didn’t stop her from eagerly accepting the role of OTIS youth coordinator last November at St. Thomas the Apostle.
“I believe that no matter how many caring adults a young person has in their life, they can only be more blessed to have more caring adults in their life,” she said. “I hope that OTIS can be that for the young people of St. Thomas.”
Dehne is the first person to fill the newly created position, but she’s quick to note that many talented, caring volunteers came before her and eight volunteers currently continue to help make a difference in the lives of the teens involved in OTIS.
“Without the group of adult volunteers that are still a part of OTIS, we would not be as successful as we are with our youth,” Dehne said, adding that OTIS was started by Karean VanEss-Wagner, and that Bill Demmon also has played an integral role.
“What I hope to accomplish with the position is to lighten the load on the volunteers of the group so that they each, individually, has more time to spend with youth instead of being buried in the paperwork and grits that it takes to keep the group running smoothly.”
Dehne helps oversee nearly 50 children in the OTIS group. They range in age from grade six to 12, and encompass several area school districts. The group meets monthly and holds a variety of activities throughout the year.
Among OTIS fundraisers are an apple pie sale at the end of November; a chili sale in spring; a Luigi’s Restaurant Night (in which they bus tables and get a portion of the proceeds, plus tips); and a letter campaign in the fall. This entails each child who’s on a mission trip sending letters to businesses, explaining what the trip is all about and seeking donations.
OTIS conducts annual mission trips. One is for grades six through 12, and the other is for grades nine through 12. Earlier this year, the 9-12 group helped people in Chicago, and the 6-12 group assisted people in St. Paul, Minn. In 2015, the 9-12 group will travel to Cairo, Ill., and the 6-12 group will head to the Quad Cities area along the Iowa-Illinois border.
“I just really enjoy being with the youth and being a part of who they all are,” Dehne said. “They do so much good for the community here and the communities on their mission trips. Helping lead the group seemed like a perfect fit for me, because I’ve always been so supportive of everything they do.”
OTIS also holds pumpkin and cookie sales, helps with highway cleanup, sorts beads for rosary kits at church and puts together college care packages for parishioners who are now in college. And, as time permits, they perform local service projects, like playing bingo at area nursing homes, making cards for parish members who are homebound, or helping as needed at Peter’s Pantry or The Salvation Army.
Dehne, who lives in Kiel and works a full-time job during the day, also is involved in several other projects at St. Thomas the Apostle.
She teaches third-grade religion, helps with children’s liturgy, serves on the education committee, is involved with the hospitality ministry and assists with Faith Responders. This group helps with parish needs, such as when older members need their lawns raked or windows washed.
“I’d rather be busy than bored,” Dehne said with a chuckle. “There’s always a lot going on, but I always find the time.”
And that includes spending time with her husband, Duane, and 20-year-old daughter, Tess.
“Even though I am crazy busy most of the time, I love to spend time with my family,” Dehne said. “I have many nieces and nephews that I love to spend time with. I have strong family relationships with my husband, daughter and parents. I especially love to spend time with my 95-year-old grandma, Ellie Hoban,” one of the parish’s oldest members.
Dehne has been a member of St. Thomas the Apostle since it formed in 2000. Before that, she was a member of St. Wendel in Cleveland and St. Isidore in Osman.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Barb Dehne
Parish: St. Thomas the Apostle, Newton
Favorite saint: Valentine
Words to live by: “Faith does not make things easy, it makes them possible.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]