Big Walnut Middle School students provided more than 2,100 hours of community service April 27 in a special event held in conjunction with Global Youth Service Day.

Middle school Principal Josh Frame said the service day is an annual schoolwide project. This year, students completed work at more than 45 locations around Delaware County from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

"This is the third year we've done this," he said. "About 560 students and 60 adults worked together on this project."

A student leadership team organized the event and identified the work sites, with help from the Sunbury-Big Walnut Area Chamber of Commerce, the Galena and Sunbury mayors' offices and United Way of Delaware County.

Individual students picked the top five projects they'd like to be part of before they were assigned.

Some students at first were worried about being with their friends at work sites, Frame said.

"Once they get beyond that, they changed from being focused on themselves to being focused on others," he said. "We can see the impact they had on the community."

Frame said Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield visited the school "and spoke on service to others, and having a great community by having people working together, providing the needs of those around us."

Projects ranged from reading to elementary school students, visits to four nursing homes, a fly-fishing expedition with veterans and work at two horse farms.

One service site was Sunbury Community Library, where director of communications Samantha Tribble said students were divided into four groups.

One group worked at the library's outdoor raised beds, which are rented to residents as vegetable gardens. Another presented a puppet show and storytime reading for children ages 2-4.

"That was cute," Tribble said.

A third painted an area that will become a sensory station for young library visitors. The fourth group used scanners and computers to help inventory the library's collection.

Preservation Parks of Delaware County's Deer Haven Park, 4183 Liberty Road, also acted as a service site.

"Anytime we can get kids out in nature, that makes my day," said Chris Roshon, Preservation Parks natural resources manager.

He said about 20 students worked to help remove narrow leaf cattails, an invasive species, from a wetland that was created in the park last year. The plants can handily be pulled from the ground when young.

"We had kids out there pulling it. It was a lot of fun," he said. "We had waders for some of them to wear, and they loved that. They found it fun to interact with the wildlife and bugs."

Water in the wetland is about 6 inches deep, Roshon said, and except for one student who fell down, everyone stayed dry.

Students also volunteered at Willow Brook by Day, a day program for seniors at Willow Brook Christian Village, 100 Willow Brook Way.

Laurie Moon, Willow Brook life enrichment leader, said the students helped with music therapy, played trivia with the seniors and cleaned porches and windows.

"The kids all seemed to have a great time. I think it's a good experience for them," she said. "Some had questions because they weren't sure how to interact with seniors. We told them you can just talk to them like normal people. One young man asked what if he couldn't understand what someone was saying. We gave him pointers on that."

The students "enjoyed pitting their wits against the seniors during trivia. The seniors loved the students and the intergenerational activities.

"It's a breath of fresh air to see the young kids," Moon said. "We're always happy to have them here. It's always a fun time."

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