Sounds like a plan

Published 10:27 am Monday, March 15, 2010

In her entire high school career, Spring Valley resident Danielle Vogel only spent about three hours in Austin — not much more, not much less.

She spent roughly two and a half hours at a movie and the other half hour taking her friends to the Spam Museum.

These days, however, she’s seeing a lot more of the town.

Vogel is the new coordinator of children’s and youth ministries at First United Methodist Church in Austin.

She makes the roughly 31-mile commute from Spring Valley several times a week and stays busy with her new job, coaching the Kingsland High School speech team and helping direct the school’s production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

“I prefer to keep myself very busy,” Vogel said.

Vogel, 24, has lived in Spring Valley most of her life and is a long-time member of Faith United Methodist Church in her hometown.

When she was 3, she noticed that a man and his sons would often sit in a nearby pew from where Vogel and her mother would sit.

She also saw that the man would slip some Jolly Rancher candy from time to time to his boys during church.

“I figured out when I was 3 that I could army crawl under the pew and go sit with him and get candy all service,” Vogel said with a smile. “It was a win-win situation.”

That man is now her stepfather, and Vogel remained active in church throughout high school, including work in the Youth in Action Team, which helps plan United Methodist youth events throughout the state.

“It’s played an extremely big role in my life,” she said about religion and her faith. “Something that is unique in Minnesota is that we have all of these church camp experiences that allow children to build on their faith.”

Vogel is speaking from experience as she attended church camp over a decade’s worth of summers growing up.

After high school, Vogel attended college at Wartburg in Waverly, Iowa, where she was involved in campus ministry before graduating in 2008 with an English and second education degree, and a speech theatre minor.

After college, she spent time in Grand Junction, Colo., both with Youth Works, an organization that plans and implements mission trips in the United States, and as a teacher.

She also spent time enjoying mountains we don’t have here, and she even once went skiing in Vail.

“I just fell in love with Grand Junction,” Vogel said.

In the summer of 2009, Vogel moved back to Spring Valley and took her new position at First United Methodist Church earlier this month.

She still helps out at Faith United Methodist Church from time to time, but said her new church and job are keeping her busy.

“If it’s preschool through 12th grade, I help plan it,” Vogel said.

As coordinator of children’s and youth ministries, Vogel helps adult volunteers with the youth programs for preschool through sixth grade on Wednesdays, then helps on Sunday evenings with the junior high and high school programs.

In between those days, she helps sometimes plan the children’s message for Sunday church and coordinates other youth activities that range from Vacation Bible School to special events.

“Right now, my biggest thing is helping with the community-wide Good Friday service,” Vogel said. “While the adult programming is going on upstairs (at First United Methodist), we’ll have an Easter egg hunt, crafts and a children’s message downstairs.”

Still fresh on the job, Vogel gets lost on occasion in the huge church that has roughly 500 parishioners, but said she’s enjoying her position and looks forward to doing more.

“I think it’s a great way to have them be mentored by adults who have strong faith lives,” Vogel said about the importance of church activities in a child’s life. “It also gives them a common bond with the other youth.”