For 48 years now, Lakes Area Young Life has been a part of the Detroit Lakes community — and despite some COVID-related setbacks that kept in-person gatherings to a minimum over the past year and a half, LAYL Director Peter Paulson says they are going strong.

"We did some camp trips this summer that were really great," Paulson said.

In fact, LAYL Associate Director Jessica Pudwill — called "Pud" by virtually everyone who knows her, she says — led a group of sixth grade girls on one of those summer youth camps this summer, which involved a hiking trip to Colorado.

"It was so much fun," she said of that trip, "and now, we're getting back to weekly and bi-weekly clubs (group gatherings) for our Young Life and Wyld Life groups."

Wyld Life meets every other week, while Young Life meets weekly, Paulson said, adding that the meetings are being held at Young Life's new home in Lakes Area Vineyard Church (950 Longview Drive, Detroit Lakes).

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"We've been meeting in a lot of places — the Vineyard Church, the Castaway Club, the city park, in people's homes," he said, adding that the group had a tailgate party for this past Friday's Detroit Lakes Homecoming football game against Pequot Lakes at Mollberg Field.

Plans to build a new, permanent home for the faith-based, youth-oriented nonprofit hit a snag this past year, Paulson noted. "We've put a lot of that (building plans) on hold because of COVID," he said.

But there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved with the organization, either by supporting it financially or by volunteering at various events, he added — and it's those opportunities that will be highlighted during the organization's annual banquet on Sunday, Oct. 10 at the Castaway Club Young Life camp on Pelican Lake.

"We're excited to be doing this back at the Castaway, in person," said Anthony Boehm, a Young Life volunteer who is coordinating the banquet this year along with his wife, Katelyn. "It's one of our biggest fundraisers of the year."

"It's a fundraiser, but we wanted to make it similar to what we do at Young Life — sort of an adult version of it," Boehm said. "We want to get people excited about our mission, and share the story of Jesus with them."

Young Life leaders and youth participants will share their stories during the event, which gets underway at 4:30 p.m. Though there is no cost to come and enjoy the meal with the group, free will donations will be encouraged.

"We will also be highlighting all the opportunities for adults to get involved," Paulson said, adding that there are several ways for them to volunteer with Young Life even if they can't support the organization financially.

"We will have a super fun time, and yet a meaningful event, with lots of good food," said Kathy Nelson, another volunteer Young Life committee member. "Last year's banquet was virtual, so we are very excited and ready to gather in person this year!"

Though there is no cost to take part in the banquet, RSVPs are requested for those planning to attend. To sign up, send an email to kimberlyaramsey@hotmail.com. For more information, visit the website at lakesareayounglife.org.