Teens ditch summer plans for community service

Thursday, July 10th 2008, 7:27 pm
By: News 9

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9

A group of teens ditched their summer break for a week of hard work. It doesn't sound like a typical teenager's idea of fun, but the teens were willingly cleaning up the Riverpark neighborhood on Oklahoma City's southwest side.

It's an older, inner city neighborhood, established in 1954.

"There was graffiti on every single street, on every single corner," said Riverpark Neighborhood Association president Jeanna Daniel. "There were homes boarded up and run down on every single street."

But just three years ago, Riverpark was reborn when a group of children came in to rebuild.

"I think it's good to actually do something for the community," 17-year-old Justin Phillips said. "Somebody's got to do it, so why not us?"

The Catholic Heart Work Camp is a group that sends teenage volunteers all over the country to fix up neighborhoods like this one, one week at a time.

"We're really religious, and we just go into neighborhoods and help people, and just try to make the neighborhood a better place," 15-year-old Nicole Dudziask said.

There are more than 25 projects scattered around this neighborhood. Over here, they're painting the exterior of the house and putting up siding. Across the street, they're building a wheelchair ramp.

"I can't walk very far, I have a bad back," resident Wilma Owens said. "I just can't go very far."

People living in the neighborhood, like Owens, are forced to use a cane because it's been too difficult to get her motorized wheelchair out of the house. She said, having a wheelchair ramp will be a blessing.

"You hear about the bad things kids do," Owens said. "You don't hear about the good things, and these are good kids. They're really doing a good job."

The residents said the teenagers' hard work and faith has been the springboard to Riverpark's revitalization.