Evidence of youth’s ability to make a difference in their world was abundant in Grand Ridge last Saturday, along with proof that working with their elders can make them even more powerful forces for good.
It all started with thoughts about Christmas. Grand Ridge Town Council member Kim Applewhite was looking forward to the big party that the town leadership puts on for the community to celebrate that holiday each year.
She approached Grand Ridge middle school FFA sponsor Shawna Scott Ferguson. She asked if Ferguson’s club members could make some wooden cutouts for use in decorating for the festivities around Town Hall.
Ferguson assured her they could. Their conversation continued and somewhere in it, Applewhite spoke of other community needs that were on her mind.
The landscape in the town’s John Thomas Porter Recreational Complex, which is located near town hall and next to the school off State Road 69, was growing a bit out of hand. That was also true of the landscape features that frame the town’s two welcome signs on U.S. 90. The park had other maintenance issues that normally were handled by inmate crews until the COVID-19 pandemic and/or other factors took them out of play in recent months.
“So why not let us do these...we’ll ask other clubs to help,” Ferguson said to Applewhite. She got a grateful go-ahead. Ferguson went to Grand Ridge Middle School BETA Club sponsor Jessica Owens in search of a partner in the project. Owens was gung ho.
But how would the kids react?
That answer was clear last Saturday. Roughly 25 members of the two clubs converged on the grounds of the park and some also deployed to the welcome signs. They toiled for hours on end, their enthusiasm and energy poured into re-mulching plants, trimming them, uprooting weeds with a vengeance and otherwise sprucing up the park. They made the welcome signs much more welcoming by clearing away out-of-control growth that obscured some of the words, “Welcome to Grand Ridge.”
Some also cleaned restrooms and the concession stand in the park.
They worked hard and became community heroes that day, Ferguson said.
They weren’t the only ones, she added. Almost an equal number of adults took part. Several are parents of the participating club members. Some are town council members, including Appplewhite and Mayor Chris Harrell, and some are city employees.
There were community members at large on duty as well. Carolyn Johnson, a great-grandmother, made and delivered snacks for the hungry crew, for instance.
At the end of the day, the generations had together reinvigorated some key assets deeply ingrained in the town’s identity.
Morgan Gainer, Kim Applewhite’s daughter, captured some of the work in pictures. A few of those are shared here.