Among the dozens of YouthWorks mission teenagers helping spruce up the exterior of The Pillars July 9 are (left to right): Meghan Thomas, Morgan Jenkins, Lexi Rivera, Andrew O'Hara, and Megan Iannello. All are from northern Ohio. The YouthWorks teens, a total of about 400 over seven weeks this summer, are fixing up properties of people in distressed circumstances as well as public sites.
Octogenarian Pat Wassel looked out of a window at The Pillars, towards dozen of teenagers painting the siding and trim on her aging Main St. estate which hosts a variety of local enterprises in its former motel units.
“It’s wonderful what these kids are doing — I can’t believe it,” she said, watching the youths scrape and paint. “With taxes and other expenses, i can’t afford to fix the place up like this — it’s incredible to see them work like this.”
About three dozen teen members of two churches in southern Ohio, representing the mission organization YouthWorks, were at work July 9 on Wassel’s sprawling downtown property.
From mid-June through the first week in August, about 400 teenagers — primarily from the midwestern and eastern U.S. — will have participated in the week-long work sessions in northern Warren County.
The group has been fixing up both private and public properties in the area.
In Warrensburg, YouthWorks crews have painted the First Presbyterian Church parsonage, and helped fill in sunken graves at the local cemetery.
Warrensburg Deputy Supervisor John Alexander said the teenagers’ work in town was much appreciated. Alexander bought a YouthWorks crew pizzas July 3 after they finished clearing brush — a full dumpster’s worth — at the town Echo Lake park and beach.
“It’s amazing what these kids accomplished,” he said. “What a testimony for our nation's youth, that people volunteer like this.”
The YouthWorks teens have also worked twice per week in gardens on local public sites in Warrensburg — mulching, weeding and planting, according to Teresa Whalen of Warrensburg Beautification.
The young volunteers have tilled and planted in an expansion of the local community garden, plus fixed up a composting system there. They’ve also cleared a trail at the local Riverside Park which hosts the local farmers’ market — and they’ve attended to the decorative garden at the Warrensburg Elementary School, she said.
“Their work has been tremendous —they’ve gotten so much accomplished,” she said. “Also, the teenagers are learning so much about plants and gardening.”
YouthWorks crews have also painted cabins and cleaned up the property at Jesus Is Lord Camp in Diamond Point, landscaped at the North Creek Ski Bowl and Gore Mountain Ski Center, and fixed up the exterior of the Bakers Mills Wesleyan Church.
In the town of Chester, YouthWorks crews have helped clergy at The Priory retreat house prepare for their annual Garage Sale fundraiser.
In North Creek, the teenagers are working weekly to help construct a community mosaic downtown. They also conduct several visits to Tri-County Nursing Home to play games and lead exercises with the residents there.
The mission is also holding a “Kids Club” open to local children on weekdays at the First Presbyterian Church in Warrensburg.
YouthWorks, a Christian organization based in Minnesota, sends volunteers out to dozens of mission sites across North America. This is the sixth consecutive summer they’ve sent a series of mission trips to northern Warren County.
The YouthWorks group has been based locally in Warrensburg, with the girls staying overnight in classrooms at the First United Methodist Church, and the boys on the floor of the one-room Pentecostal Holiness Church. In their rare spare time, the teen volunteers were hiking, swimming, socializing and worshiping. Recreation while here has included swimming in Lake George at Million Dollar Beach, hiking though woods at The Priory, and visiting Natural Stone Bridge & Caves in Pottersville.
One of the group leaders, John McIlvane, said the program annually introduces youth to community service while they learn about the local culture, and form relationships with people of all generations.
“We really like being part of the community,” he said. “People love that we’re here, and we feel very blessed.”
Children’s sessions held daily
YouthWorks is also conducting “Kids Club” Monday through Thursday afternoons at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Warrensburg. Open to all area children ages 5 through 10, the sessions — from 12:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. — feature games, Bible lessons, arts and crafts and other supervised activities on site.
Parents can bring their children and register on the spot, or pre-register by calling Andrew at (972) 998-9386.
Community cookout; all invited
The YouthWorks participants are also holding a community cookout each Thursday through Aug. 2 at First United Methodist Church on Main St., and all local residents are welcome to attend. The cookouts feature complimentary food and fellowship. Youthworks leaders said it was a way that the teen volunteers can connect with the local citizens and learn about the their lives as well as the town.
YouthWorks leader Rebecca Graber of Lillian, Alabama said she enjoyed the mission in Warrensburg because of the area’s scenic beauty as well as the attitude of its residents.
“I love the mountains — and the hospitality of the people here make me feel like I’m at home,” she said.