What do you get when you mix 15 teenage girls, a church camping trip and a hot, muggy day?
Girl power is what you get, and a lot of it.
It was supposed to rain all day on June 4 in Seldovia, when 15 girls began the long trek from their campsite to the road where they would be caravanned to the Seldovia Police Department. They estimated they had to climb approximately 200 steps to reach the top of the hill that bordered their campsite.
Accompanied by their five adult chaperones, they “groaned” their way to the top, stopping several times to rest. The cars waiting for them at the top gave them a brief respite before they began the serious work of serving the community, something the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints repeatedly stresses to their congregations.
“The camp’s purpose is to teach the girls to serve others, to serve in their community and to do hard things, to overcome adversity, and build unity,” said Shelley Davis, camp director for the Kalifornsky Beach Ward Young Women’s Camp. “We knew this project would be a struggle and a great way for the girls to give back to the Seldovia community.”
The project assigned to the members of the Young Women’s Camp was to clear the area surrounding the SPD building of weeds and rocks.
“When we were assigned this project, we knew that digging those rocks out would definitely be hard on the girls. The weeds we tackled that day had been there for years, growing up through those rocks and gravel. These dandelions had roots that were ten inches long and two inches in diameter. They were not easy to remove. Using shovels and rakes, we dug through the gravel to reach the roots and remove them. First, though, we had to remove the larger rocks and move them to the wharf. It was tough, but the girls never faltered.”
Suzie Stranik, the chairman of the Beautification Program for the Seldovia Chamber of Commerce assigned this chore to the LDS camp members after Davis requested a project for the girls to “give back.”
“Those girls were just amazing. They cleared that whole area in two hours and I had projected that it would take at least four. They were respectful and extremely hard workers. They appeared to be of one mind as they worked. They made it fun for themselves. I loved the singing,” she said.
Mandarin Wilcox, youth camp leader, agreed.
“I was really amazed not only by the girls’ willingness to help, but by everybody’s positive attitude while helping. It was really impressive when we started digging in those rocks and everybody started singing together. We sang some silly songs, but also ‘Put Your Shoulder To The Wheel,’ which was completely appropriate. The singing was spontaneous, but so much fun.”
Stranik said she chose this particular project as a surprise for Seldovia’s new police chief, Hal Henning. Henning was sworn in only the week before the girls started their project of clearing the area that is at the entrance to Henning’s new office.
“This was a huge job and I had no idea how we were going to get it done before Shelley called me. We were very grateful for her offer. This is a great way to welcome Chief Henning.”
Now that the area is clear, the city will plant shrubbery and flowers that will reflect the beauty of Seldovia, said Stranik.
Chief Henning echoed Stranik’s praise and gratitude.
“It was fantastic that the girls came out and did this. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the fact they gave their time and energy to help us out and did such a great job. We are in the process of finding monies to complete the area they cleaned up with new top soil, grass and planter boxes,” he said.
Each of the girls involved enjoyed being able to give back to the community.
“What impacted me the most was being able to help the people in Seldovia,” said Elizabeth Davis, youth camp leader. “People would stop by and ask what we were doing and they would immediately tell us how grateful they were. They seemed to appreciate our efforts so much. I liked that a lot.”
“I liked it because everyone there joined in to help. We all worked together to achieve this. That was my favorite part,” said Madeline Kleinschmidt, youth camp leader.
Craig Wilcox, Bishop of the Kalifornsky Beach Ward, also applauded the girls’ efforts. “I am humbled to know that young women in their teenage years are so willing to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to ‘serve one another’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we know that when you are in the service of your fellow men, you are only in the service of your God and that, through service, the lives of many are blessed. We thank the citizens of Seldovia for providing our girls the opportunity to provide service and we hope that the city is a little more beautiful as a result.”