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Service Projects Help Community

April 16, 2005
By SUSAN KANIA, Special to the Courant

Brushed by a brisk spring breeze, with the drone of I-84 in the background, Bulkeley High School students Miladie Rivera, 18, and Luis Mulero, 15, took up rakes, shovels and wheelbarrows Friday to help the Hartford Food System prepare gardens for spring planting.

More than 400 Hartford students and millions of youths across the country will participate in a variety of service projects this weekend to mark National Youth Service Day. For the third year, South End Community Services is the local lead agency, with the help of Hartford AmeriCorps.

"This is an important event for youth in general and for Hartford," said John Thomas, senior program director for South End Community Services. "It demonstrates the positive impact youth can have and want to have in their communities."

The service day volunteers came from several city youth programs and schools. Miladie and Luis, who are members of the ASPIRA program, joined youths from Our Piece of the Pie and GROW Hartford to prepare the Hartford Food System gardens on Laurel Street for planting.

"We chose this project because we love to work in gardens," said Miladie, who like Luis used to help out in family gardens in Puerto Rico before moving to Hartford. "We want to make a difference in our community."

They shoveled composted manure and leaf mulch into wheelbarrows, which other students dumped and spread onto raised garden beds. Second-year volunteer Jerica Sandiford, 17, a team leader from GROW Hartford, worked hard raking and offering hints to other helpers.

Rayza Pla, 16, from ASPIRA, pulled old roots and weeds from the soil, as Ernest Hardy, 17, from Our Piece of the Pie, entertained the workers by showing off a wriggling earthworm.

"National Youth Service Day is an awesome opportunity to bring kids who are active in the community in different programs together. They learn from each other," said Shannon Raider, the GROW Hartford program director who supervised the youths' gardening activities. She said that by working in the gardens, the students share the satisfaction of doing physical work and also learn where food comes from.

Across the city on Pearl Street, Havagay Hope, 14, and Nayda Pacheco, 17, volunteers from Yo! Hartford, chose to work with a different sort of tools: books. They sorted bags, boxes and piles of donated hardcovers and paperbacks, mostly for children, for the Greater Hartford Literacy Council. Inside the front cover of titles from "Old Yeller" to "The Runaway Bunny" to "The Boxcar Children," they stuck labels or stamped the message "Reading. It takes you places."

The books will be distributed to children in city elementary schools, preschool or other programs, who will take them home to add to their family libraries.

Other Youth Service Day projects included an inside and outside cleanup for Mercy Housing and Shelter and raking and other yard work for senior citizens. Students who participate in a youth program at the Aetna Center for Families on Washington Street, who had been trained by the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, set up an information table where they registered new voters. Earlier in the week, several students toured Hartford's city hall, where they met city council members, Mayor Eddie A. Perez, and other officials.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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