Lizzy Karp isn't one to idle her summer vacation away sleeping, watching TV or hanging out at the movies. In fact, she's paying for the privilege of getting up bright and early each weekday to clean up a widow's yard, sort cans at the local food bank or make quilts for kids with cancer.

She said she's working hard to eradicate the stereotype of being a teen with too much time and not enough to do. As one of nearly 500 youths enrolled at the Jewish Community Center's annual summer camp, she's spending her ninth summer in a program that focuses as much on community service as on recreation.This year the 14-year-old is a counselor-in-training, where she's learning how to help her younger charges understand that serving others is a lot more fun than more self-centered pursuits.

Even when she's finished with her daily routine, the lessons she's learning at day camp spill over into her free time.

"Instead of going to the movies on Friday night, I'll get a bunch of my friends together and we'll go the hospital and talk to the sick kids there," she said, gesturing an arm circle that illustrates inclusiveness. "When you set an example for volunteering, it seems like other kids want to get involved. Lots of my friends ask me about it."

On a recent weekday, Karp was busy reading stories, playing games and making pipe-cleaner crowns with preschool-age children at the Neighborhood House, which caters to low-income youngsters during the day while their parent -- usually a single mother -- is at work.

She's not alone in her enthusiasm for helping others.

Tom Kalay, another counselor-in-training, comes to Utah each summer from Tel Aviv, where he lives with his family during the winter months, to participate in the JCC's annual summer camp and its service orientation. "It gives you a certain kind of pleasure that swimming or playing Nintendo doesn't. It just fills you up with joy to help other people."

At 14, Kalay is at ease talking about how he's enjoyed participating in projects that many kids his age haven't even considered. "We've been to the food bank over a dozen times, to Deseret Industries many times. We've painted over graffiti. We were here (at the Neighborhood House) last week, and I really wanted to come back.

"If we didn't like it, I guarantee you we wouldn't be here."

He said the program works because staff members at the JCC teach their counselors about overcoming stereotypes, the importance of diversity and the negative impact of racism.

Stephanie Unger, administrator of children's services for the Neighborhood House, said having teens interact with the preschoolers benefits both groups.

"These little kids get so excited when I tell them these older kids want to come and spend time with them. It's quite rare for a teenage group to come in, usually it's volunteers from the (university). It's pretty neat to see a younger group come in and enjoy it. They provide a role model and a positive influence."

In fact, some of the youngsters become so attached they have a hard time saying goodbye at the end of a session. Karp knows all about that. At the end of her first visit to Neighborhood House, one little girl "wrapped her arms around my leg and wouldn't let me go."

"After about 15 minutes we just had to pull her away. That was hard, but I'm glad they know we care about them."

Director Jeff Rappaport, who started with the camp 23 years ago as an 8-year-old -- said the camp is designed for children ages 6-14. In operation for at least 25 years, the program accepts children from all religious backgrounds as well as those who are mentally handicapped or physically disabled.

Three different summer sessions, each three weeks long, allow campers the chance to attend camp all summer or for just one session. Service has always been a large part of the program, said Greg Thornton, assistant camp director. "We do quite a bit of work that offers only intrinsic rewards. For the most part, the kids are very happy about it.

"I've met a lot of kids that could care less about what they do with their summers and where they could help out. These kids come in very anxious, and we work them extremely hard. They rarely complain."

Teens who become counselors-in-training have usually participated in the camp program for several summers. In preparing to lead their own groups next summer, they participate in leadership activities, conflict resolution sessions and diversity training.

"We try to make it more than a place where you just send your kids to play during the afternoon. We really try to broaden their horizons," Thornton said.

While the smaller children participate in activities geared more to their age group and abilities, older campers are directed toward service projects in addition to the regular field trips and recreational activities offered at the JCC.

By the time summer has come and gone, Thornton estimates his campers will have put in 2,000 man-hours of service.

That kind of devotion to others provides the makings of a responsible, active citizen for the future, he said. "When you make that connection with intrinsic values at a young age, I think you're more likely to gravitate toward it as you get older."

The philosophy seems to be working. Kalay sees service as an opportunity rather than a burden. "When you're out working with your friends to help other people, that's when you really have fun. Some people may not look at it that way, but I think if you get a lemon, you make lemonade. It's just that simple."

For information about the Jewish Community Center's summer camp, call 581-0098.