A sea of people wearing yellow "Mormon Helping Hands" bibs were at Beltzville State Park on Saturday to clear trails of debris and remnants of Hurricane Sandy. Among the 150 people were 80 students from Lehigh Carbon Community College and families of the students along with LCCC staff and faculty who also shared in the volunteer effort. The group from LCCC was led by assistant professor of Spanish, Charles H. Molano, who encouraged students from his classes to participate.
Gary Schoenberger, high priest group leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Beltzville, served as the local project leader for the "Saturday in the Park" service project.
Their goal was to compensate for the loss of funding associated with the government's sequestration. Without their help the parks might not have been ready to open on the May 31 target date. They were trying to help that along. Volunteers met at the park at 8 a.m. and divided into teams to take-on overgrown trails, clearing debris, giving the park a spring-cleaning. The army of yellow came prepared to do some heavy work. They brought chain saws, shovels and rakes. They picked up debris and cut up brush and downed trees and also mulched the playground.
Saturday in the Park is a major service project of Mormon Helping Hands, covering 19 State and Community parks in Pennsylvania. Mormon Helping Hands is a public service program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As part of this project, volunteers attacked dozens of overgrown trails, rusting or weather-worn signs and light posts, as well as numerous other projects in parks throughout the state.
Thousands of residents participated across the Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.
Schoenberger said that the parks are due to open on May 31 and with budget cuts, they would never be ready for the public without these volunteers helping prepare for the opening.
In a special proclamation, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has endorsed April 27 as a day to volunteer in local and state parks in Pennsylvania. Mormon Helping Hands has offered to lend the spirit and muscle of its members to this day of volunteerism.
In his proclamation, the Governor has said, "I commend all those involved in organizing this initiative and I hope that this event is successful in attacking many volunteers to serve on this day." He goes on to further say, "I hope that the dedication and leadership demonstrated by these participants motivates and inspires other citizens."