Teens from The Bridge Teen Center in Orland Park conduct a spring cleanup for businesses near the center as part of a Global Youth Service Day initiative. About 120 teen center members chose a service project to participate in for the day. | Ginger Brashinger~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 19, 2014 11:17AM
Planet Earth was in good hands Saturday as teens all over the world, including hundreds from the Southland, participated in the 26th annual Global Youth Service Day.
“It’s about students coming from all over to come together to make a difference,” said Priscilla Steinmetz, co-founder of The Bridge Teen Center in Orland Park with her husband, Rob.
Steinmetz said The Bridge was chosen this year as a lead agency for Global Youth Service Day to coordinate service events following its participation in last year’s event, where Southland teens prepared care packages for military families, did cleanup work at an animal shelter and painted a local school, among other activities.
“I really think we were chosen partly because we bring so many entities together — civic organizations, schools, local businesses and religious communities,” Steinmetz said.
The Bridge’s project this year was an outdoor cleanup to benefit the businesses near the teen center site.
“We’re serving our local neighbors with a random act of kindness,” Steinmetz said.
She said about 140 teen members of The Bridge each chose one of about a dozen service projects to work on — in conjunction with schools, churches, service groups and youth organizations in the Southland.
Bridge teen ambassador Amber Holup, 15, a sophomore at Tinley Park High School, received two grants to fund a project of her making. She received $500 from Disney Friends for Change and $250 from the 9/12 Generation Project for a service project to thank and honor area 911 dispatchers.
Amber and 30 teen volunteers, many of them members of Tinley Park High’s Interact club, baked cookies to show appreciation for 85 emergency dispatchers representing 16 towns. The cookies were brought to Tinley Park’s 911 center for distribution to the call centers at the various towns.
Amber said the money was spent on pre-cut cookie dough, baking supplies and memento T-shirts bearing the Global Youth Service Day motto, “A Good Deed Brightens a Dark Day.”
“The saying represents what we’re doing (for the day),” she said. “We’re honoring people who have kind of a ‘dark’ job. Hopefully, it will impact the operators a lot.”
Other service projects included collecting non-perishable food items for delivery to food pantries, assembling Easter treats for at-risk students living at Mercy Home and spending the day with residents at Smith Crossing, a retirement village in Orland Park.
“How cool for our kids to be involved in a global day of service,” Steinmetz said. “The students are making a difference. Of course, that makes students know they are a part of something bigger than themselves.”