When 90 youth from throughout the Leesburg Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came together for their annual Youth Conference, they had a clear focus on service. One day of the three-day conference was dedicated to service projects. The youth and their leaders gathered from nine congregations – Lecanto, Apopka, Leesburg, Clermont, Minneola, Eustis, Belleview, Sorrento, and Sumterville. The conference was hosted by the Clermont and Minneola congregations and held at the Clermont Chapel near Green Valley.
The first project of their service day was helping with a restoration project at Lake Louisa State Park. Park Rangers and volunteers gave a brief training then broke the large group into smaller teams to scout out and pull out the Ceasarweed plants throughout the forested areas. These non-native plants are considered a nuisance plant.
Pulling them out allows the native plants to fill in the areas and restore the area to its natural setting.
Jenny Kehlenbeck, a park service specialist at Lake Louisa, was grateful for the help with the restoration project. “We don’t have enough park employees to do this on our own. It’s great to have community involvement. We can always use help, just contact the park office.”
Natalie Webber of Clermont, remarked, “I didn’t know I had that much strength to pull out plants for three hours. It was hard but rewarding.”
Other youth were heard to say – “This wasn’t something I normally do”, “It was fun working as a team”, “I liked working outdoors – except for the spiders”, “Our family comes to the park a lot so it was great to give some service back”.
After their three hours of service, the youth enjoyed a picnic lunch by the lake before heading to their afternoon service project at the Clermont chapel.
With a goal of 50,000 packed meals, the youth and their leaders again worked in teams to mix the set-out ingredients for “Red Lentil Jambalaya”. The meals will be sent throughout the United States and internationally by Feeding Children Everywhere, an organization dedicated to providing “healthy meals for hungry children”. Each meal bag contained rice, lentil beans, dehydrated vegetable, and salt. Bags were sealed and packed in boxes for shipping. In less than two hours of packing bags, the goal of 50,000 meals was reached.
“It was a fun project and a great way to help others,” Ellie Brantley of Belleview shared. “Once we got our assembly line going, we moved pretty quickly. I was excited to try to make our goal. I thought about how many people we were helping.”