Work Projects Take 700 Youth out to Serve the Community

2010 National Youth Conference of the Church of the Brethren

Fort Collins, Colo. — July 19, 2010


A Monday afternoon service project had youth painting an anti-beaver concoction on trees at a natural area near Fort Collins. Photos by Frances TownsendThe Hearts and Horses Therapeutic Riding Center in Loveland was one of the Monday service projects at NYC.

NYC participants were invited to spend one afternoon this week doing volunteer work to serve the community in and around the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland. Each day, Monday through Wednesday, around 700 youth and adult advisors are heading out on buses to dozens of work sites.

Some of Monday’s options were yard work, window washing, trash pick-up, sorting clothes at a thrift store, and playing with young children at the Boys and Girls Club. More exotic choices included painting trees for beaver control at two natural areas, transplanting native plants at the High Plains Environmental Center near Loveland, and working at Hearts and Horses Therapeutic Riding Center, also in Loveland.

The send-off of the work groups was tightly coordinated. Yellow school buses filled one side of a large parking lot on the CSU campus, ready to head for the work sites, while white canopy tents held the sign-up sheets. The hundreds of participants all made their choices quickly and most were assigned to a bus. A couple of groups stayed on campus to do their service work. By 12:38 p.m., they were all on their way.

The Hearts and Horses center was the most distant location, about 24 miles away in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The riding center works with special needs people, boards some horses, and runs riding schools in the summer to support its mission. Volunteers are crucial to its operations. A dozen youth got the facility tour and worked on grounds maintenance.

About five volunteers went to help senior citizen Dee Mercier Van Hoorne at her home, where she had a yard project too heavy for her to do by herself. They moved stone and helped fix her wooden fence. She worked alongside the youth, helping them figure out how to accomplish the repairs–on a very hot day when she said would rather not be out but playing her autoharp instead. She herself volunteers regularly, playing at nursing homes with her bluegrass gospel group.

Beavers were the focus at Gustav Swanson Natural Area. They like to eat the cottonwoods and willows along the river. Park personnel have protected the trees with wire cages, but the young trees quickly outgrow them. A big crew of NYC youth spent the afternoon painting the lower 30 inches of the tree trunks with a thick slurry of latex paint mixed with sand–a mix beavers reportedly don’t like because of how it feels on their teeth.

Two youth from Missouri/Arkansas District said they chose the project because they like beavers and because they wanted to come to a natural area. Among their rewards for a good afternoon of work along the river was sighting two deer resting in the shade about 10 feet from the path.

HELP International welcomed 26 youth and 6 advisors for its service project. HELP started in 1999 after the founder went on a mission trip to an African orphanage where the children had almost nothing to wear. Now the organization sends clothing and used school and medical office equipment to at least 30 countries. It also sells used clothing and other items in a local thrift shop to raise money for overseas shipping. NYCers sorted clothing, shoes, toys, and books for sale and for shipment.

One service group went to a nursing home, where they cleaned up the yard, removed a bush, trimmed the other bushes, painted a fence, cleaned up flower boxes, and pulled weeds. The afternoon temperature was above 95 degrees, and if the sun was not shining brightly, the sky was filling up with storm clouds. For the most part, the NYC volunteers forged ahead with good spirit. As the service project organizers said to the group, using bullhorns during the sign-up time, “Service is service. It isn’t to have fun, it’s for Jesus.” The youth were ready and willing to serve.

–Frances Townsend is pastor of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren

Question of the day for those coming off the buses Monday afternoon:
What did you do at your service project?

Daniel Westbrook
Scottsdale, Ariz.

I went to HELP International. We packed and boxed toys for Uganda and other countries. I liked it was. It was fun, and real random.Interviews and photos by Frank Ramirez

Matthew Bauer
Windber Pa.

I went up to Boyd Lake State Park. We cleaned up a bunch of trash. It was hot, but fun.

Krystal Morse
Everett Pa.

We picked up trash and sorted stuff that was donated to help other people. Yes, it was fun!

Riley Davis
La Verne, Calif.

We helped clean out and organize a shed at Angel’s House. It’s a transition home for the homeless, to help them get on the right track. We priced items for a yard sale. For the most part we had a real good time, but it was really hot, but okay.

Alex Demastus
Elkton, Va.

We moved a lot of rock to stop erosion. It was tough work. It was somewhat fun.

The News Team for the 2010 National Youth Conference (NYC) includes photographers Glenn Riegel and Keith Hollenberg, writers Frank Ramirez and Frances Townsend, “NYC Tribune” guru Eddie Edmonds, Facebooker and Twitterer Wendy McFadden, website staff Amy Heckert, and news director and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford. Contact cobnews@brethren.org .

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