In 13 years, the Sylvania Youth Conservation Corps has made a lot of changes around Harroun Park.
Trees planted as saplings have grown tall. Picnic tables and benches are scattered along pathways. Birds have found homes in the wooden houses nailed to trees.
The corps is made up of about 30 students, ages 12 to 14. Art Landseadel, Sylvania city forester, started the group to help maintain and improve the city's 14 parks. Group members meet three mornings a week and get $10 a day for their efforts, half of which goes into a savings account.
Mr. Landseadel said he tries to teach traits employers value.
Starting off a workday last week at Harroun Park, he asked this year's team of 26 Sylvania youth,
"What's the name of the game?"
"PRODUCTIVITY!" they yelled back.
Wild birds were the theme of the day. Bernie Place of Wild Birds Unlimited gave everyone a talk on different kinds of feeders and seeds, then took them for a walk to see what kind of birds they could identify. Afterward, the corps built bird houses to hang throughout the park.
"A lot of the work gets out of the way at the beginning - toward the end they're rewarded with the more educational stuff," said Lorie Lewis, the corps' field manager.
And the kids of the corps have had their fair share of work. Mr. Landseadel said they've planted over 5,000 flowers this summer, as well as doing landscaping work at a number of public buildings, such as the Sylvania Township Police Department, the municipal court building, and two fire stations.
Emmanuel Dzotsi, 12, attends Sylvania Franciscan Academy. He said he joined the corps to "actually do something with the summer, and help the environment."
He said he's not sure what he'll do with the money he's making, but it will probably go into a college fund.
Some corps members continue to come back even after they've exceeded the age limit.
Danielle Raszka, 19, goes to Kent State University and was in the corps as a junior high student. She's now in her second year as an adult supervisor.
Ms. Raszka said she thinks the corps is a good project, and she enjoyed the experience when she was younger.
"We put in a brick walkway. It was tedious, it had to be perfect," she said. "The first time my boyfriend came from Akron, I took him there and said, 'I built that.' "
On Saturday, the corps will sponsor its annual river ball race in an effort to raise funds for supplies.
Participants pay $2.50 a ball and race them along the Ottawa River in Harroun Park starting at 1:30 p.m.
The grand prize is a ticket to Cedar Point for a family of four and a one-night stay at the Hotel Breakers.
All the prizes were donated by community businesses, and the Sylvania Rotary Club covered the cost of printing tickets, advertising, and flyers.
"Every nickel from the sale of tickets goes to the Conservation Corps," Mr. Landseadel said.
Contact Carin Yavorcik