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Some 500 area youths participate in Youth Service Day

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
April 25, 2010
— Ten-year-old Morgan Oren of Janesville sat on the concrete steps in front of Janesville’s House of Mercy, nursing a tall cappuccino.

For Oren, being up at 9 a.m. on a Saturday was a chore all its own. On top of that, she and 10 of her friends from Janesville’s Girl Scout Troop 3483 were about to roll up their sleeves to scrub pots, dishes and cupboards in the kitchen at the House of Mercy, a women’s home in the city’s Fourth Ward.


“I never even got to see ‘Saved by the Bell’ on TV this morning,” Oren said, laughing. “And it’s supposed to be a new episode.”


Sacrifices, sacrifices.


Oren and her friends’ work assignment Saturday was just one project for Youth Service Day, a community volunteer effort organized through United Way of North Rock County and Rock County 4-H.


Five hundred area youths participated in the effort, with dozens of cleanup and aid projects slated throughout Rock County this weekend. The program, an offshoot of Global Youth Service Day, is in its 11th year locally.


Girl Scout leader Shari Rach helped chaperone Saturday’s cleanup at the House of Mercy. She said volunteer work helps her scouts learn about needs in the community, but it also shows the community that young people care.


“There can be negative attitudes about kids today, that they’re self-centered. I think these projects prove the point otherwise. Kids can be kind. These girls here today all have big hearts,” Rach said.


Alyssa Rodriguez, 10, tiptoed to reach into a soapy sink while washing dishes at the House of Mercy.


The Janesville Girl Scout joked with her friend Oren, who was scrubbing the inside of a cupboard.


“The cappuccino girl has never done dishes in her life,” Rodriguez said.


Oren just smiled.


Julie Cunningham, United Way’s organizer for Youth Service Day, spent the weekend driving from site to site around the county, monitoring projects and thanking youths and parents involved in the work.


Projects ranged from park and historical site cleanups to food shares, and even craftwork.


And while rain this weekend dampened plans for some outdoor work, Cunningham said only a couple of the service projects were canceled.


“It just shows how much youth really feel that volunteering is important. It might be overcast, cold and rainy, but the kids aren’t just sitting around,” Cunningham said.


At the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds, young crews worked cleaning up debris left over from the winter. Grayson Goss, 11, of Brodhead of the Avon 4-H club spent the morning raking leaves away from fence lines at the fairgrounds.


He said the work was easy compared to shoveling snow at home all winter. Besides, he had nothing better planned.


“I probably would have just played basketball today,” Goss said.


Rock County Fair Board Secretary Karen O’Leary said Goss and other youths’ choice to help out means neighbors won’t have to deal with old leaves blowing from the fairgrounds.


“It looks so much better already,” O’Leary said. “It just shows you what a big difference kids can make.”



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