Middle and high school students from all over the country will experience Cortez for the first time this summer – by painting houses and clearing lawns.
YouthWorks, a Christian volunteer organization, will send a different group to Cortez every week throughout the summer to do service projects and host community events. The first group, made up of teens and adults from Nebraska, Texas and Kansas, arrived on Sunday and left on Friday, after hosting the first weekly community cookout on Thursday night. They will continue to perform service projects in the city through Aug. 5, with the help of Cortez volunteer coordinator Noel Cooley.
YouthWorks has been sending teams to Cortez since 2000, but most of the volunteers in this year’s first group had never been there. Stephanie Randall, a parent volunteer from Texas who had been on three trips, said Cortez was the smallest town she’d visited with YouthWorks. Another adult volunteer, Jimmy Weaver, quickly added that it also had the friendliest people.
Morgan Randall, a teen volunteer, said the trip had been “an eye-opening experience” that had allowed her to meet people from another part of the country. Her teammate Emily Fulton said she signed up for the trip because she enjoys helping people.
“When you’re serving others, you’re also serving Jesus,” she said.
This year’s first YouthWorks group repainted several houses in Cortez, helped out on a farm, visited a nursing home and organized a vacation Bible school for younger children at Lifeway Baptist Church, among other projects. Lifeway’s church building will be home for all the teams during their time in Cortez, and it will also be the venue for the community cookouts they will organize every Thursday.
But Wendy Morency, the YouthWorks staff member in charge of coordinating this year’s volunteer groups, said she tried to incorporate an element of fun into the trip as well. The first group took some time out from their service projects to visit Mesa Verde, and Morency said that when they’re not working, she tries to encourage teens from different churches to hang out together.
“We’re trying to make sure everybody mingles, talk(s) to each other and (has) fun,” she said.
YouthWorks organizes volunteer trips for students and families all over the United States and Canada. Groups typically contain one adult for every five students, and are led by members of the organization’s permanent summer staff.
Cortez residents can apply for help with painting, yardwork or small repairs from the YouthWorks teams this summer by contacting Cooley.
According to the city’s application form, priority will be given to needy and elderly applicants.