Faith Walk Ministry's Youth Department of Paris wants students from early elementary through college to know they are supported by their community. The youth department has done this by collecting gift cards from multiple area businesses. They will be distributed starting 7 p.m. Friday at Garfield Park in Mexico as part of a back-to-school pep rally. The rally for ages 5-21 is part of the ministry's Friday Night Fire events held every other month throughout the county.

"We as a whole fellowship, as a human race, we should all want positive things for one another," one of the ministry's youth department leaders Carolyn Lewis said. "We're throwing a pebble in but we want that wave to float all around us."

The rally is helping fulfill the ministry's mission statement of finding ways for all people to be an asset to their community and to the body of Christ, she said. To learn more about the event, residents should call Sandy Oliver at 660-327-5752.

"When we tell youth all the time that they are an asset and we support them, we also advocate for them to know that you have to give back to your community," she said.

The way a person can support the community is by spending their money in the community, she said.

"I love my community. I've lived here 22 years. It's an asset that so many children don't realize until they move away. Let's take care of it and we're growing and we're thriving. You may not know what's going on behind the scenes, but we got you," Lewis said.

Many of the same retailers and restaurants are available in Mexico when compared to Columbia, she said. Other communities in Audrain County don't have what Mexico has and so the event also is highlighting and supporting what the community already offers.

"You have to give back so you receive back because those tax dollars improve and you can have better things by being positive," Lewis said. "We have so many assets here."

So the youth department as a means to find ways in which local residents can support local businesses went to those businesses and agencies to collect something tangible for students.

"Kids don't understand tax levies, they don't understand that gives us money to buy a new pool, to buy a water park and things, but what they do understand is something tangible in hand," she said. "I would like to be able to hand them a gift card from McDonald's or wherever and say, 'Hey, they do support you.’ They didn't have to give this and do these donations."

Youth need more than platitudes and talk about how they are being supported, Lewis said, adding they need action and something real. "The community has done a wonderful job in its outpouring of support," she said.

The ministry also is working to encourage positive attitudes and finding ways to be positive when interacting with other members of the community.

"It's just encouragement in a positive way to let [everyone] know they are an important part of the world in which we live in and what you put in, you will get out. It might not come back as quickly as the bad, but if you sow, it will sprout good things," Lewis said.

Everyone has a part to play in a young person's life and youth also have a part to play within their community, she said.

"You can't sit back and say, 'When I grow up.' You can do things now. You can be a positive attitude. Don't sit back and think until I become an adult," she said. "This is your practice run to be able to see what you want to do and things you want to change. You have to be doing something, because if you do nothing, you get nothing."