By Josette Keelor
STRASBURG -- Youth and church leaders traveled to Strasburg on Thursday as part of a three-day effort to serve the community.
For an annual youth conference with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 109 children age 14 to 18 and 30 youth leaders helped renovate features of the Strasburg Town Park east of town.
Following recent storm damage at the park, participants replaced damaged boards in park pavilions, rehabilitated the sand volleyball court, stained wood in pavilions and on park benches, and built a trail between the park playground and the Little League baseball fields.
The effort contributed to the overall appearance and usefulness of the park, said Town Manager Judson Rex, who helped organize the community service day.
"It's probably been a decade since the sand volleyball court has been up and running," he said. Volunteers with tractors and backhoes had to dig through layers of grass Thursday before youth volunteers could fill in the area with new sand.
Usually the town stains the park's five pavilions every five or 10 years, he said, but "the picnic tables have actually never been stained. They look like new now."
Thursday's project developed as an effort between Rex, also a bishop in the Mormon church, and Randall Bartlett, area stake president.
Participants traveled from around the local stake, a group of congregations, that reaches west to east from Petersburg, West Virginia, to Front Royal and Luray and north to south from Charles Town and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to Woodstock.
Area leaders in the church are volunteers, Bartlett said, explaining "It's kind of like a family of families, where everybody serves everyone. And service is really a hallmark."
Each year area church youth serve the community through projects. Thursday they planned to end the day with a dinner and dance at two of the stake's chapels on Apple Pie Ridge Road in Winchester before continuing their service efforts in Winchester and Frederick County today and Saturday.
Efforts will include removing dead flowers from Mount Hebron Cemetery in Winchester and clearing mountain bike trails at Sherando Park in Stephens City. They also planned to participate in an international genealogical indexing effort on Saturday, transcribing text from scanned microfilm images into digital documents, to make the information easier to research.
Area church members help with various projects throughout the year, but Bartlett said it takes a special project that can provide enough work for more than 100 youth volunteers.
Front Royal residents Darien Mauck, 15, and Demetry Arnold, 18, joined 18-year-old Charles Town residents Michelle Mayfield and Kylie Nelson in staining one of the park's pavilions today.
Demetry called the project "a great experience," and Mayfield, who also helped pave the walkway between the playground and ball fields, said the experience gave her "a better appreciation for the area."
Darien agreed, "It feels good to help the community."
Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or email@example.com