For Vicki Nelson, volunteering at Epworth United Methodist Church is a family tradition. She is involved in various church missions and is the youth leader said her pastor the Rev. Pat Youngquist. "I like the way she brings the two together," Youngquist said.
Vicki Nelson, 53, has lived in Fort Dodge since the age of 2. "I was baptized at Epworth United Methodist Church and have been a member ever since."
Her youngest daughter, Melissa, is also involved in the church. "And I'm the mascot," added Vicki Nelson's grandson, Taiton, age 6. "He goes to everything that we do," she said. Taiton is Melissa Nelson's son.
Vicki Nelson, center, along with grandson Taiton (left) and daughter Melissa (right) work with the youth and a variety of other volunteer positions at Epworth United Methodist Church.
Vicki Nelson's older daughter, Kathy, helps out when she can. She is a home health student at Iowa Central. Kathy Nelson's son, Nate, 14, volunteers at the church with the rest of the family.
Vicki Nelson has served six years as youth leader. The program had not been active for a while until a confirmation class wanted to start it up again. Nelson saw the need and volunteered. "I was in Methodist Youth Fellowship when I was a child and my parents were the leaders," she said.
"Our church is a small church and with just one minister we don't have the paid youth leaders like some churches do," Vicki Nelson said. "I love the kids, and I love the Lord, and I want everybody to know him. I think especially the youth need to know him to go through their trials and tribulations as teenagers, and as young adults."
The group is very involved in community outreach. Some of the many things they have done include: participating in the anti-drug walks in Pleasant Valley; attending community meetings on drug problems in Fort Dodge; volunteering at the Key on Central; helping at the Baby Room for Upper Des Moines Opportunity; helping with the auction to raise funds for the new Beacon of Hope shelter for homeless men; participating in the "Taking it to the People" ministry through the First United Methodist Church; and helping with a annual rummage sale to raise funds for mission projects.
Through their efforts the group as helped to support: the youth shelter; the Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center; the Lord's Cupboard; and the YWCA.
The youths help with the Saturday Night Dinner Out meal and bingo at First United Methodist Church. The meal is sponsored by the Fort Dodge Area Interfaith Forum. "Our church does it in March and the kids volunteer for that. They put on the meal. The kids love it," Vicki Nelson said.
The kids have become involved in the church services too. One teen runs the sound system, and Vicki Nelson's grandson, Nate, runs the video equipment. Some of them usher, and one plays an instrument and sings during some services.
Recently the Epworth youth group has combined with the Riverside United Methodist youth group. "They come to our church once a month and we go to their church once a month, Vicki Nelson said.
One of the hardest parts of running the youth group is raising money for activities said Melissa Nelson. "And coming up with creative ideas and keeping the kids occupied." They try to find activities which incorporate the Bible and the Lord.
Involving parents is another difficulty. "We don't have a lot of parents participating," Vicki Nelson said.
Vicki Nelson is also a chairperson for missions, in charge of anything involving mission activities. She serves on the church's God Squad bringing communion to and visiting shut-ins and nursing home residents. The youth group helps with sending cards and letters to them. "In our missions we try to get the kids involved too," Melissa Nelson said.
"I'm also a lay speaker in our church," Vicki Nelson said. She has taken the classes to qualify to be a preacher. She has done some preaching in her church and has done it in another town as well. Once a month Nelson serves as worship leader and leads children's church. She also teaches Sunday school.
What Youngquist first noticed about Vicki Nelson was her spirit in serving others. "She is an example of what it means to serve God and serve neighbor, and to love God and to love neighbor," she said. "She is definitely worthy of the recognition."