LaGRANGE — Pulling up overgrown plants from a downtown park Wednesday morning, a group of youngsters took away more than a few square yards of flora.
Middle school students from Lafayette Christian School walked away with a sense of purpose and an understanding of civic involvement, said Kevin Payne, a LCS Bible teacher who supervised the students.
“The school wants to give back to the community,” Payne said. “We’re also following the Christian principle of giving back to the community in the name of Jesus.”
More than a dozen eighth graders from the school participated in LCS’s annual community work day by replanting flowers in pots near the downtown movie theater, uprooting space for new flowers in Flag Pole Park on Lafayette Square and landscaping around City Hall on Ridley Avenue.
Ben Mayo, a student and work-day volunteer, said he’s glad to lend a hand.
“We come out here with a bunch of people and help the community,” he said with his hands covered in dirt. “It’s good to know we’re helping out. I don’t mind getting dirty.”
Mayo — in his third year of volunteering — and his fellow volunteers weren’t the only ones helping out on Wednesday. About five teams of students fanned out across the city to work in other areas, as well, Payne said.
Today, students from LCS’s high school are scheduled to lend a hand at area nonprofits, including the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Main Street, the Emmaus House shelter and Twin Cedars youth services.
The high schoolers are also slated to work today at the new Sweetland Amphitheater at Boyd Park.
John Cipolla, head of LCS, said the community work day has swelled to a four-day event as the school’s enrollment has grown.
Cipolla said teaching students about service is a clear goal for the Christian school.
“Our mission statement is to impact the culture for Christ,” he said. “The first step of that is for kids to have their own perspective impacted so that they can see needs around them and they can experience serving others.”
He said he’s concerned about the selfishness he sees in some of society and wants his students to learn that service to others can lead to a greater happiness.
“It’s just sort of counter-cultural,” he said. “Right now a big struggle in our culture is that people focus on themselves and their needs and their wants — but the true source of joy is to look outwards and help others.”
About 500 students participated in the community work day, he added.
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.