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Doing community service for Niceville and beyond

For some middle and high school students, summer break means hanging out at the beach, sleeping until noon, or playing video games until all night.

For the more than 200 students who took part in this year’s Mission Northwest, however, five days of summer break involved gathering at Crosspoint Church around 8 a.m., volunteering at numerous worksites across the community until 4 or 5 p.m., then gathering back at the church for food, fellowship, and worship until 8 in the evening. Most of those 12-hour days were spent working in the hot sun when the heat index hovered around 100 degrees. And while that may sound tough, Noah Hunter wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hunter, a recent Niceville High School graduate heading to Ole Miss next month, took part in his third Mission Northwest experience in June. His first two years were spent as a youth volunteer, but this year he transitioned to group leader.

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“In my first two years, I was doing lots of physical labor at places like Twin Cities Pavilion,” Hunter explained. “This year was a little different, because I led a group of about 30 to 35 rising sophomore boys. As a leader, I was still physically involved in the projects, but I also got to pour my faith

into these young kids. It was a great experience.”

What is Mission Northwest?

For over a decade, the missions ministry at Crosspoint Church has worked with its student ministry program to serve local community organizations during an intense, five-day summer event combining worship, fellowship, and service. Originally known as Mission Okaloosa, the church changed

the name to Mission Northwest in recognition of the group’s expanded outreach.

“It’s been crazy to see how much it’s grown,” said Judy Smith, Crosspoint’s missions ministry systems specialist. “It’s shown that middle school and high school students can be the hands and feet of Jesus right here in our local community. There is a need, and we can help, so we do.”

Where did the students serve?

Smith said that this year’s group of volunteers, which included around 90 adults in addition to around 225 students, served at 11 different worksites. 

One group helped to organize a special prom for students at the Emerald Coast Autism Center, while another renovated the teacher development room at Edge Elementary.

“The volunteers also hosted and organized Military Sunday, which included a free meal, carnival activities, and just an overall fun day for local military families,” Smith added. “We had students who painted colorful cartoon murals in the tunnel that runs under Highway 85 at Edge Elementary School, and others who put on a water day at the Emerald Coast Autism Center.

Other activities included working at a farm retreat for foster care and adoptive parents and building a garden pathway and a chicken coop for Freedom House, a home for women in crisis. Other students volunteered at Grace Rides, an organization that provides equine therapy, while still, others helped the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office sort donated items from a clothing drive.

Noah Hunter’s younger brother, Isaiah, helped a group that laid 10 tons of rocks to help restore oyster beds with the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance.

“We put down those 10 tons in less than three hours!” Isaiah pointed out proudly.

Noah’s and Isaiah’s sister, Hannah, helped organize a block party for Fort Walton Beach residents in conjunction with Gregg Chapel ministries. Noah said that having his siblings and his parents, Teresa and David, all volunteer made the event even more special.

“It was great that we could serve together, and then come together at night for worship,” he said. “It was five full days of community building. For anybody looking for an opportunity to serve, they should consider Mission Northwest. There are a lot of areas of need around us, and lots of hard-working kids who are ready to help.”

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