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Youth group spends a day volunteering around Gainesville

POSTED: July 12, 2013 11:44 p.m.

A group of youths pick up litter floating in the water Friday morning along the shore of Lake Lanier at Longwood Park. The group was part of a larger group of youths that ascended on the park to help spruce it up.

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More than 200 local youth participated in seven different community service projects around town on Friday.

The projects are one aspect of a youth conference organized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located on Riverside Drive in Gainesville.

“We strive to teach our young people correct principles,” said George Wangemann, a conference organizer and Gainesville city councilman, “so they can use those principles to guide their lives with.”

This is the largest group to be involved in a single coordinated service effort by the church in roughly 10 years, he said.

The kids spent approximately four hours conducting service work at a homeless shelter, food banks, public parks, a nature center, a youth center and an arts organization.

A group of 34 youth in conjunction with Action Ministries made and packed more than 200 nutritional “smart lunches” for local children in need. Many children receive free lunches from the school system when school is in session but fail to receive proper nutrition during the summer months.

“We try to feed these kids because hunger doesn’t stop when school lets out,” said Action Ministries coordinator David Holmes.

Other groups painted classrooms, the dining room and exterior walls at the Good News at Noon shelter; picked up litter at Longwood and Holly parks; cleaned and weeded wooded areas at the Elachee Nature Science Center; prepared lunches at the Georgia Mountain Food Bank; played games and taught computer skills at the Boys & Girls Clubs; and moved items out of storage for the Arts Council.

“In the past, we have done things like cleaning up a park,” said conference organizer Suzy Sultemeier. “And we are doing a little bit of that this time, but we wanted this community service to be a more one-on-one interaction with the community.

“So George helped us find services that needed help.”

The conference started Thursday with a Dr. Seuss-themed game night at the church that included inflatable bounce houses, pingpong, cotton candy and other treats. After the service work Friday, the youth attended a team-building exercise and a swim at the Collins Hill Park and Aquatic Center in Lawrenceville.

Today, they plan to attend workshops on topics such as college life, dating, money management and spirituality, followed by a dinner and a dance.

“Some of the leaders say that thing that they remember from going to these youth conferences is the service projects and that was the greatest part of the whole thing,” Sultemeier said.

“We throw in all this fun but the kids will probably remember the service more than the dance or the swimming.”
The conference was largely planned by a youth committee, which consisted of young church members. Many of the activities, discussion topics, food and workshops were chosen by the committee.

The church plans to host future youth conferences and hopes to involve just as many or more kids, Sultemeier said.


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