Special to the Tribune
Eight children staying at the Appalachian Children’s Emergency Shelter watched last Saturday as 60 other teenagers worked outside building planter boxes, clearing the woods for a walking trail and painting lines on their basketball court.
The youth from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Cobb and Cherokee counties came to ACES in Jasper to volunteer for a service project.
“I really appreciate the youth (volunteers) because we need help in so many areas,” said Bernadette MacArthur, assistant director of ACES. “We are a nonprofit. Every bit of help we get is absolutely wonderful because these are things we can’t afford to do for the children.”
With material donations from SouthScape Landscaping and Home Depot of Jasper, a few church leaders and 60 youths ages 14 to 18 spent several hours to make a difference in the lives of youths who are in crisis situations, removed from their families, placed in foster care, and awaiting to be put into a new living situation.
“I feel like it’s really worthwhile,” said Alexandra Watson, one of the youth volunteers who attends Creekview High School. “You could be doing anything on a Saturday, but I think if you are doing service for other people you get more out of it than if you were going to the mall or doing something for yourself.”
The youth built two raised-bed planter boxes for the ACES children to grow a garden. MacArthur said they hope to grow enough vegetables to be self-sufficient in the summers with extra to freeze for the winter.
In addition to the planter boxes, the volunteers painted lines on the basketball court for basketball and four square. The biggest project they accomplished that day was clearing a half-mile walking trail in the woods behind the ACES facility. It provided a place for the ACES children to explore outdoor safely.
“Since these kids are in a crisis situation, they are probably struggling emotionally,” said Mitchell Rainey, a youth volunteer who attends River Ridge High School. “It would help them to calm down being out in the woods, take their minds off things, and have some fun.”
After the volunteers were done for the day, MacArthur walked around in awe seeing all the new improvements. She could not believe how well and quickly the volunteers worked doing something for someone else.
“To know that anybody from the community cares enough to do something to make where they live a little better, it makes them feel loved, cared about, and special,” MacArthur said. “We always tell them they are special and that people do care about them and people want to make their lives better. Then when they see people come out and do it, they get all excited about it.”
The Appalachian Children’s Emergency Shelter is a non-profit temporary housing for children who have been victims of abuse or neglect. They can house eight children, giving them a safe place to learn life skills and help them build their self-esteem.
For ways to volunteer or donate, contact MacArthur at (706) 253-2375 or firstname.lastname@example.org.