PHOTO: Olyvia Harter from Surry (kneeling) and Estella Kirby from Chester work at Poplar Lawn Park in Petersburg.
Forty-four Latter-day Saint teens and 21 adult leaders from Chesterfield, Chester, Colonial Heights and Petersburg gathered together July 13 in a volunteer effort to clean up Poplar Lawn Park and paint the interior of Petersburg High School.
The event was part of the youth group’s annual youth conference July 12-14 at Richard Bland College. This year’s theme was “Serving God by Serving Others.”
“We wanted them to be able to see the direct impact they would have on the community and help them increase their desire to serve and have a positive impact where they live,” Whitney Royster said.
The teens attending the conference were divided into two groups so that both projects could happen simultaneously. Church leaders and older youth coordinated with Petersburg community leaders, including mayor Samuel Parham and deputy city manager Darnetta Tyus, to identify local needs and arrange transportation for the youth.
At Petersburg High School, the teens taped off cabinets, light switches, and door frames and then painted a total of six rooms in the building. It took the group a little over two hours.
“I liked how even though it wasn’t backbreaking work, it was still hard stuff that many kids hadn’t done before, and I liked knowing that we were helping out people who had a huge job ahead of them, and we were able to help them get it done,” said Tyson Tross, 14.
At Poplar Lawn Park on Sycamore Street, city workers provided the teens with rakes, gloves, and trash bags. The group completed an overall park cleanup, as well as cleaning and painting the fence and fountain. Several neighbors of the park approached the group to express gratitude for their hard work.
Petersburg resident Rick Strom, whose home borders the park, offered the use of his facilities to the group as they worked. “You hear so many negative things about this area and the people in this area, but it’s a pleasure to see well-organized, well-disciplined youth that have a purpose, and that youth group just exemplified that,” he said. “They just went to work and did a fantastic job.”
“During the service project I got to feel and see how cleaning the community can benefit the community,” said Isabell French, 15. “Many people driving by smiled and thanked us for our service. The peace I felt while serving those people was extreme. I definitely would do it again.”
As part of the conference, leaders also encouraged the teens to serve one another by doing secret acts of service. In addition to the service project, the conference also included group games, daily devotionals, guest speakers, dance lessons and a dance.