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Annual event encourages area youth to volunteer

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By Teresa McCallion

The Courier-Herald

More than 150 volunteers braved chilly temperatures Saturday to participate in the annual Youth Day of Caring sponsored by Youth United, a United Way of Pierce County program.

The community service event is designed to increase youth volunteerism and involvement in the community, said Thomas Heavey Jr., a member of AmeriCorp Alliance for Children, Youth and Families.

Held in January to help celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the event provides an opportunity for youth to learn more about their community and the positive impact of volunteering. It makes the holiday honoring King "a day on instead of a day off," Heavey said.

Volunteers from the west side of the county met in Tacoma, while East Pierce participants started the day with an early morning breakfast and rally at the Prairie Ridge Maintenance Company. Numerous organizations, including local Boy Scout troops, the Prairie Ridge 4-H Drop-In group and the Builder's Club from Mountain View Junior High participated in Saturday's event.

AmeriCorps member Mary Sorg coordinated the Prairie Ridge volunteers. Knots of children and their chaperones snacked on doughnuts and drank hot chocolate as Sorg welcomed the group. Representative from the Tacoma Housing Authority, Pierce County Alliance, the Washington 4-H Challenge Course and AmeriCorp helped the kids with an ice-breaking introduction activity. The volunteers formed groups of four or five to create balloon sculptures representing service projects.

Following the activity, the enthusiastic group was ready for their assignments to clean the two local parks and hand out flyers highlighting area programs to Prairie Ridge residents. Others volunteered their time at the Washington State University 4-H Bonney Lake Challenge Course and Demonstration Forest. The group from Tacoma joined the volunteers there.

Last year, the volunteers worked in the forest and helped arrange a lending library in the new Prairie Ridge Community Service Center Building.

AmeriCorps member Sarah Butzine coordinated the cleanup effort at the demonstration forest. Volunteers spent their time picking up trash throughout the 147-acre forest in Bonney Lake, returning to the picnic area periodically for seek shelter from the freezing rain.

Teresa McCallion can be reached at tmccallion@courierherald.com.

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