October 12, 2010

Teens investing sweat equity in town projects

From left, Jesse Collins, Kirsten Cote and Corena Zwicker spackle one of
 the meeting rooms at the Upper Village Hall, one of several Community Service
 Learning Opportunity crews dispatched weekly by The Upper Room.
Union Leader Correspondent

 — If the walls of the Upper Village Hall could talk, they’d probably say “thank you” to a group of local teens who have been working hard to bring some luster back to the old town hall.
Last week Jesse Collins was back, perched at the top of a ladder in one of the hall’s many meeting rooms, smoothing a glob of spackle near the ceiling, while Corena Zwicker, halfway up another ladder, called for an assist from Kirsten Cote.
“Come over here — I can’t climb down the ladder; my hands are full,” said Zwicker, reaching out for Cote’s hand.
hey were among five teenagers on spackle patrol and rusty nail removal duty last week. When they resume work this week, it will be all about painting — and that’s just one stop on the weekly two-day sweep of good deeds by the CSLO crew. 
CSLO is shorthand for Community Service Learning Opportunity, an outreach of The Upper Room, which connects local teens with area organization’s in need of elbow grease. 
Under the direction of program assistant Michelle Mobsby, local teenagers are recruited and dispatched to invest a little sweat equity in their community. In return, they gain experience, confidence and the kind of good feeling you get when you step outside your own limited space to try to make the world a better place.
“These youth are amazing — some are involved to earn community service hours for college and job applications; others are required to participate by the court system, but they all do a great job. They are a great bunch of young people,” Mobsby said. 
The Upper Village Hall has been a regular stop for the work crew since last spring, said Mobsby, which means their efforts are having a cumulative effect. The fruits of their labor are starting to show. 
“This building has come a long way in a short time, and for us, it’s a particularly meaningful project. There’s so much history here, so they actually get to learn a lot about the town and the history of the building while they work,” Mobsby said. “That’s really the whole point of the program, to have kids learn about what makes this community special while making a meaningful contribution of time and energy.” 
Mobsby said every Wednesday and Thursday she schedules work sessions throughout the Greater Derry area, dispatching small groups of local teens who are either looking for something constructive to do after school or who are doing time as part of the court’s diversion program. 
For those kids, such work groups often steer them in a better direction and result in lasting relationships within the community — which is the whole idea behind courtmandated service. 
Other regular pit-stops for work crews have included gravestone cleaning at Valley Cemetery, stocking shelves at the local food pantry, and a variety of household chores or shopping trips with Community Caregivers of Greater Derry. 
“We’re always looking for programs in need of volunteers,” said Mobsby. 
Groups looking for volunteers for work in Derry, Londonderry, Sandown, Chester or Windham should contact Mobsby at 437-8477. 

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