By Karen Vance
OWENSVILLE - For 17-year-old Jeff Maloney and 400 other teens from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, community service is a regular part of the summer and something to look forward to.
"I want to grow and mature more as a person. I want to be of service and help people less fortunate than I am," Maloney said. "It's just part of our belief to do service for other people and I enjoy doing it."
Friday and Saturday, the teens from all over Greater Cincinnati worked at the Clermont County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities' four facilities doing maintenance, cleaning and improving a playground at the Thomas A. Wildey Center, a school for children and adults in Owensville.
"This will give all of our buildings a thorough cleaning and get all of our work done in a much quicker way," said Lisa Davis, director of community relations for the MRDD. "These are things we try to do on an in-service day and often (they) get pushed off and pushed off."
The agency serves 900 people each year in its four locations, but Davis said much of the work the teens did this weekend couldn't be done when the adults and children are in those facilities.
This was 17-year-old Abbey Cook's fourth year participating in the summer youth conference and service project. In the past, the group has built a Habitat for Humanity home among its projects, but this year's effort was a bit different, she said.
"It will be interesting learning about what these children go through every day," she said.
In addition to the service project, MRDD employees spent two hours educating the teens about disabilities and moved them through an interactive workshop that helps them experience firsthand what it's like to have a disability, Davis said.
The teens also participated in religious education and workshops.
Natalie Jungkunz, 17, of College Hill, said the service project is a great way to see her peers in a different light.
"It makes you feel like you shouldn't be selfish. You should help other people," she said. "You get a good feeling out of it because you're not just having fun, you're doing something for someone else."
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