GREENFIELD — The community is in good hands this year with local teen service projects ranging from tornado sirens, to Christmas stockings to bat houses.
Seven groups of area teens were awarded grants from the Youth as Resources program Thursday evening. With the good will as abundant as the neon-colored decorations, teens say they’re ready and eager to serve.
“The need is so great, and we just want to help out the best we can,” said Sarah Rominger.
Sarah, a New Palestine High School junior, packed 115 children’s Christmas stockings for the Hancock County Food Pantry last year. This year, with the help of a $975 grant from YAR and a student service club, she hopes for 250.
And the money comes just in time for Sarah, who says as a senior next year, it’s important to pass the project on to younger students who can hopefully carry on her vision.
“I’m hoping I’ll be able to help them learn how to do it, and it can continue to grow,” she said.
Youth as Resources is a program of United Way of Central Indiana. Each year a pot of money is available and a YAR board – mostly made up of teens – decides which community groups should receive it.
There was $10,000 available, but this year there were fewer applicants than normal, and only $6,748 was doled out.
Jeannie Roberts, volunteer engagement coordinator for the local United Way, said a timing change in the application process probably played a part in the relatively low number of applications. While students were used to applying in October, the applications were due in January; the abundance of canceled school days probably stalled some groups from meeting the deadline.
Still, Roberts said she’s looking forward to the new timetable for grants. Students have a year to complete their projects, and the spring award ceremony could motivate teens to volunteer over the summer or do projects not necessarily tied to school.
The projects awarded Thursday were varied. New Palestine and Eastern Hancock high school students will be making welcome bags for domestic violence victims at Alternatives Inc. with their grants from YAR.
Destination of Color will continue its color guard program for students with special needs at Greenfield Central Junior High School.
Teens Read the Way will also continue, encouraging teens to read to younger students. Volunteer Sarah Dale said activities are designed to help younger children understand basic reading concepts and older children to sustain what they’ve been learning in school.
G-C High School student Katie Floyd will use her $447 grant to help spread the word about tornado safety in Green Township. Katie wants to put sirens around Eden Elementary School, a project close to her heart because her father helped clean up after the 2012 tornado in Henryville.
But with tornado sirens in the thousands of dollars, Katie said the grant is seed money to help her spread the word about the project and apply for more grants.
“We’re just trying to prevent another tragedy like Henryville,” she said.
Graeme Basey hopes to earn his Eagle Scout rank by helping save the Indiana bat, an endangered species. Graeme, a G-C sophomore, plans to install 10 to 12 bat houses along the Pennsy Trail starting this summer. He received the highest grant award, at $1,500.
“I just found bats really fascinating – all the legends behind them, all the myths,” he said, adding that informational signs will also be placed near the bat houses. “It will help them get out of peoples’ homes, give them a place to live, colonize, breed.”
The creativity and enthusiasm the teens have for their projects is inspiring, Roberts said.
“When we do these kick-off celebrations, I just look out and see this big group of kids who are going to make a difference in Hancock County,” she said. “It’s just like, ‘Wow. These kids are so fabulous.’ It makes you know the world is in good hands – there’s a lot of kids out there doing good things.”