MILLCREEK — Fifteen-year-old Noah Jeppesen carefully tied together strips of plastic garbage bags so they could be crocheted into sleeping mats for the homeless, one of six projects underway Saturday during Canyon Rim's "day of service."
"It's nice to serve others," Jeppesen said sitting inside the Canyon Rim Park pavilion with dozens of other volunteers, including his mother and older brother. "It makes me feel good that I did something."
At a nearby picnic table, retiree Vicki Mortensen struggled to keep the slippery plastic on a large crochet hook. But she wasn't about to give up. In fact, Mortensen said she showed up at the event so she could learn how to make mats at home.
"They said it takes 40 hours," she said. "It might be a few days."
The day of service started with breakfast before participants headed to work. Besides the mats, volunteers also assembled hygiene kits, cleaned up graffiti along Parleys Trail and cleared trash and brush at Tanner and Canyon Rim parks.
There was also the opportunity to help with arts, crafts and photography projects for those with mental and physical disabilities during the inaugural Canyon Rim Cares event that also included a movie Friday night and a clothing drive Sunday.
Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said area residents have always had a strong sense of community, but incorporating as a city in December 2016 made them even more civic-minded.
"Now people identify as Millcreekers," Silvestrini said. "That brings more people out to something like this."
In a speech before the event, the mayor praised the "sense of pride and accomplishment in our community" shared by the 60,000 residents of the state's 10th largest city.
Ken and Aimee Katschke brought their four children, all under 8 years old, to help clean up their neighborhood parks. The family has lived just a couple of years in Millcreek, after time in Austin and Chicago.
"It's so good for our kids to see we care about where we live," Ken Katschke said.
Aimee Katschke, pregnant with the couple's fifth child, said spending time together as a family on a service project in the place they call home is something they will all remember.
"You can talk about service all you want," she said. "But if kids don't do it, they don't learn it."
The Katschkes' 8-year-old daughter, Annie, already understood that lesson.
She explained the family was there on a hot and sunny Saturday "so we can help other people and clean up. And have fun. It makes you feel kind of good and you want to do more."
Josie Bohling was already heading out with her 5-year-old twins, Zoey and Ruby, after an early morning of picking up trash next to Canyon Rim Academy, the charter school they'll start attending in the fall as kindergartners.
Not only did the trio manage to fill a trash bag with debris, the twins shyly showed off strings of beads that Ruby found among the weeds as their mother dug through her bag to find them snacks.
She said she brought the twins Saturday as "an exercise in creating a quality life."
"I live in a real quality place with people who care," said Bohling, who grew up in a small northern California town. She said Millcreek feels similar, made up of people "who know each other and want to make it a better place."