The view is a little clearer along the banks of the Congaree River thanks to the efforts of some youthful ambassadors.
Nearly 250 volunteers from church youth groups across the state – including many from Lexington United Methodist Church, Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church in Lexington and Mt. Hebron United Methodist Church in West Columbia – gathered in Columbia to clean stretches of the riverfront near Granby Park on Saturday. The day-long effort was part of national church youth service project known as “The Big Day of Serving.”
The youngsters along with several adult volunteers spent the day cutting and removing some of non-native plants in a roughly 4-acre section of the riverfront while also performing other cleanup operations.
“It opens up the park, it opens up the view and it reinforces the real and perceived safety in the area,” Granby Park superintendent Graham Taylor said of the work.
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The local Day of Service was one of about 40 similar clean-up efforts taking place at rivers, parks and other locations around the country Saturday. In Columbia, about 15 churches were represented from three denominations in South and North Carolina.
“I didn’t know it was this big and we’d get this much done,” said Collin Blake of the Mt. Hebron youth group. “But I’m very glad it was because I think we’re making this such a nice place to come to.”
Blake said the work was a visible way that he and his friends could make an active statement about their faith.
“Actions speak louder than words,” he said. “I think it will get people interested in God, and that was our purpose here.”
Beth Bell, a Presbyterian youth leader, said the day had reinforced the importance of serving others.
“We always hope that they learn that they can share Christ through service, not just talking about it, but doing it,” she said. “It’s kind of an immediate way for them to see the difference they are making.”
Taylor said the work provided Saturday by the young volunteers accounted for about 700 total man-hours.
“When I look at what two of my men can do, this is just a giant helping hand to the city,” he said.