OREM — Twelve-year-old Tanner Nielsen doesn't need more than a lawn mower to make a difference.
He spent a recent evening mowing, clipping and raking to ensure that Elizabeth Kuhni's lawn looked good for her husband, who just returned from military service in Afghanistan.
"It's just another way of helping our community and ... another way to help with military families," Nielsen said. "A bunch of people write letters; this is another good way to (help), too."
"I think that's amazing that this little 12-year-old boy would even think of that," said Kuhni, who, for a year, has been dealing with three children under the age of 4. "So many wives are left with kids and don't have time and maybe don't have the resources. It's so great whenever someone volunteers to help you with anything."
GreenCare for Troops is a division of Project EverGreen, a nonprofit national organization that works to educate consumers about how to properly mow a lawn, water efficiently, use lawn products and deal with insects, among other things.
The organization is made up of lawn-care professionals, landscapers, maintenance people and suppliers.
This will be the second summer the organization will step in and show their concern through lawn care.
"We're out there to help military families and show consumers how important it is to take care of green spaces," said Den Gardner, executive director of Project Evergreen. "With the major breadwinner in another part of the world, those things fall by the wayside."
When Nielsen learned about the program through a Utah County United Way Web site, he decided it would be a great way to get in service hours as a Boy Scout, and it was actually something he could do on his own (thanks to mom and dad's lawn mower).
Right now the program is available for military families in all states, although volunteers are dwarfed by the number of applicants — 1,000 volunteers to 4,200 families.
However, some volunteers take care of two, three or even 10 families.
Nielsen signed up for two. And there happened to be two applications from Orem.
"Tears came to my eyes," said Joy Westenberg, who manages the GreenCare for Troops program, as she described the e-mail she got from Nielsen. "Here a 12-year-old boy steps up to the plate. He's a very good example."
Nielsen is the youngest volunteer the program has had.
"Adults are to be the role models, right?" Westenberg said. "Here we have a 12-year-old who is a definite role model for the rest of us."
Nielsen said he's been talking to his friends about the project and is encouraging everyone to get involved in service somehow.
"It really isn't that hard," he said. "Just go over once a week and mow the lawn for like, maybe, an hour."