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August 31, 2017: The Importance of Community

Individually, we can make a difference. Pick up the fork in the road. Pass the newspaper on to a friend. Eschew bottled water. Bypass that full can of soda. Avoid plastic packaging. And for dog sake, recycle, recycle, recycle. These days, these and other directives are either falling on deaf ears or are being tuned out by those who have heard them numerous times. Add to this, YOU can make a difference.

To be in the thick of it, at the sorting table, amongst the recyclables and non-recyclables is a sobering experience. Yesterday the wind came up and blew plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and whatnot in all directions. The whatnot, a

baby diaper and several wads of napkins, stayed on the table. One person ran about and retrieved the goods. Another scraped down the table with a dustpan. Countless bottle caps went into the garbage. And yet another emptied a trashcan full of aluminum cans into a super sack, one that was to be stored in a storage container and later taken to VCRS where it will then be baled and shipped down to the Lower 48.

Yes, the individuals at the sorting table were making a difference. In this case they were teenagers involved with Venturers, a youth program of the Boy Scouts of America, designed for young men and women who are 13 and have completed eighth grade, or age 14-20 years of age.

The purpose of the Venturing program is to provide positive experiences for youth and to prepare them to become responsible and caring adults. Venturing is based on a unique and dynamic relationship between youth, adult leaders, and community organizations.

The Venturer crew members have thus far put in more hours than any other community service group. Equally impressive (at least in my estimation) is the fact that the groups I’ve been working with have been working as a team. Yes, we as individuals can make a difference. But communities of individuals make an even bigger difference.

We learn by example. Picture it – three teenagers out on the fairgrounds. All are wearing yellow vests and large orange rubber gloves. There they are, out in the Midway, filling a cart with recyclables. One searches around for cardboard. Another lifts a green recycle barrel lid, and opens a bag. Another pulls bottles and cans out of barrel and deposits them in a nearly full to overflowing bag. Others, their age, pass by, food and drink in hand. The midway – it’s a noisy, crowded space.

A teenager, the age of the Venturers, stops and asks them what they’re doing. All stop working and begin to tell him about the Venturing program and that what they’re doing is community service work. His friends gather around. The ensuing conversation, in which all participate, is animated, intense, but also peppered with teenage phrases and laughter.

If say, one of these kids were alone, he or she would be hardly noticeable. Sure, the bags would get filled, and the returning person would get the usual high five and hero’s welcome. But the addition of a few more individuals has an even greater impact on the thinking of our citizenry in relation to recycling.

I have made it a point to let the Venturers know what a great thing they are doing. I have also commended those in other groups, some of which hail from Colony High School (ROTC and the Spanish Honors Program included) and Valley Pathways.

Perhaps my motto should be – no forks left behind.

Next: 240. 9/1/17: Cardboard, Cardboard, and more Cardboard

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