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Grass-roots effort gives yards extreme makeovers

200 teenagers assist elderly with lawn care

Beth Cheney's yard was a jungle with waist-high weeds and overgrown flower beds and bushes bullying their way onto her walkways, driveway and porch.

Cheney, an elderly woman living in the Liberty Park neighborhood, was helpless against the vegetation invasion all summer. She was unable to take care of the yard herself and couldn't afford to hire help.

But her yard is in top shape thanks to some Park City teenagers.

The LDS youths from the Park City Stake came armed with lawn mowers, leaf blowers, paint and cleaning supplies, ready to give 25 yards near Liberty Park an extreme makeover.

In its second year, the project, called Super Service Saturday, involved more than 200 girls and boys between ages 12-18 and targeted elderly and widowed residents in the area.

Lyn Udall Fisher, a community member, said there is a concentrated number of elderly in that area, many over the age of 100. She said what keeps the neighborhood so tight-knit is the spirit of service and outreach already there. But the manpower of hundreds of young people have put a smile on all their faces.

Chairs of the service project youth committee, Becky Blair and Landon Jones, both agreed the turnout was tremendous.

"They could be doing other things on a Saturday, boating, sleeping or something like that," said Jones, 17. "But everyone woke up early to come down here and give back to the community."

Blair, 17, said the best thing about it is they actually had the chance to apply the ideals they have learned about service.

"Its a way to stay happy and exercise what we've been taught," she said. "It's fun to see the difference we are able to make."

It seems many, even the kids themselves, stereotyped the volunteers as "privileged kids from Park City." But they were all smiles and energy throughout the project. Some were placed in individual service subgroups, from truck crews gathering up the enormous piles of weeds and branches to a crew distributing water to the laborers.

Youth leaders said the beauty of the project was that it drew double the participants that normally show up for so-called "fun" youth activities. Service was what drew participants out.

"We just have some really great youth and they are always looking for opportunities to help people out," said Mike Nelson, an adult advisor to the teenagers.

Four hours after the workers started, the targeted houses looked wand-touched, including Cheney's, where clippers and mowers revealed a driveway that hadn't seen the light of day in months. It was even blooming rosebushes.

"I don't know what I would have done without them," said Cheney. "They are so nice and accommodating — they don't act like I am infringing and they seem so happy to do it."


E-mail: terickson@desnews.com