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Superior youths take up challenge to beautify city

Emma Ferrando smiles as she prepares to spray paint over graffiti at Benny Peterson Park in Superior on July 9. About 60 young people from local churches spent the afternoon cleaning up garbage and covering up graffiti at three Superior parks.

Nearly 60 young people toting spray-paint cans left their mark on Superior parks earlier this month. Instead of leaving graffiti in their wake, they erased it.

“The original idea for this event came from a meeting of the local youth pastors,” said Tom Bush, youth pastor at Bayside Baptist church.

For about eight years, they have been meeting a few times a week to discuss youth ministry, church and how they can partner together to encourage students.

“At the end of this school year we challenged our students to make this summer count, to really have an impact on others,” Bush said. “We wanted to give them a tangible way to do that — and to do it together.”

So Jason Rhoads, youth pastor at Darrow Road Wesleyan Church, Safe Harbor Fellowship and the City Church, contacted Mary Morgan, director of Superior parks, recreation and forestry. She suggested they pick up garbage and paint over graffiti at city parks. The city even supplied the spray paint.

“I am always pleased when youth want to ‘own their park system’ by making improvements to it,” she said. “Graffiti is an issue at most parks every year, so it is gratifying to have volunteers make an effort to cover it up.”

The best defense against graffiti is to cover it as soon as possible, Morgan said she was told by police.

“We can’t always do so,” she said. “This is extremely helpful to the community.”

The community service event took place July 9. About 20 students tackled graffiti and garbage at each of three sites — Kelly Park, Heritage Park and Benny Peterson play area.

“The kids had a lot of fun and enjoyed helping the community,” Bush said. “It was also neat to see the reactions of people who were at the park.”

A mother and her daughter stopped to play at Benny Peterson Park while the volunteers were painting it. The mom explained what they were doing and told her daughter they would have to come back the next day to play so the paint could dry.

“When we were all done the little girl thanked us for what we did,” Bush recalled.

The combined youth groups have coordinated projects at Superior High School and Superior Middle School in the past. Because of the success of the efforts, they hope to continue making a difference through the park system.

“We have been working with Mary Morgan on a follow-up program to what we did Wednesday night, including having some of our students potentially go to local elementary schools and talk about graffiti in the community,” Bush said.

The public can pitch in to keep Superior parks beautiful.

“We have had groups remove litter, eradicate invasive species, cover graffiti and paint picnic tables, benches and pavilions,” Morgan said. “They can contact me directly at (715) 395-7279 if they have an interest in conducting a project.”

Youth from a number of other churches took part in the project, including Central Assembly of God, Superior Christian Missionary Alliance, North Bay Community Church and First Covenant Church.