For some area youth, this summer has been filled with more than just trips to the pool.
Several dozen volunteers ages 11 to 18 were honored Thursday night at an ice cream social at Holcom Park, 2700 W. 27th St., to recognize their summer service.
Each donated at least 20 hours of their time to one of 13 projects selected by the Youth Volunteer Corps Summer of Service, a program sponsored by the United Way Roger Hill Volunteer Center.
“In the summer, there’s a lot of lag time for teenagers,” said Shannon Reid, an Americorps member who helped run the program.
By tapping into that free time, organizers hoped teens would make volunteering a habit moving forward.
“The whole idea is to get kids involved in volunteering, and kind of hook them while they’re young,” said Lori Johns, director of the Roger Hill Volunteer Center. “My guess is that a lot of them will continue, not just now but throughout their lives, to give back.”
In all, 55 volunteers logged 2,540 service hours at nursing homes, food pantries and local nature sites. Many worked on multiple projects.
Adam Fales, a junior at Free State High School, braved the summer heat to lay mulch at Lawrence Hidden Valley Camp and cleaned up trails at Midnight Farm Day Camp in Baldwin City. He said working with the volunteers was the highlight of the project.
Organizers said the service projects were not just about giving back, but also about exposing volunteers to other parts of the community.
Tom Brooks, 14, spent four days at Brandon Woods at Alvamar recording oral histories from senior citizens, including a World War II veteran. He and other volunteers also learned more about the day-to-day lives of seniors by wearing vision-impairing glasses and taking fake prescription medicine.
“We experienced what some of the older people were going through,” Tom said.
He said he would likely volunteer again next summer, but would need to get a summer job when he turns 16.