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Volunteers with the Montana Conservation Corps led a group of local youth in a round of stretches and calisthenics Saturday morning in the Fish, Wildlife and Parks office parking lot at Lake Elmo State Park in the Heights.

The kids and volunteers needed it as a warm-up for a day of labor at Lake Elmo for Global Youth Service Day, a worldwide effort to get kids involved in improving their communities.

“It’s about that sense of giving to the community,” said Dan Bassett, a senior youth crew leader with the conservation corps. “It’s something bigger than themselves, and I think a lot of people are looking for that.”

Youngsters from the Riverside Middle School Builders Club, a local church group and high schools participated, along with nearly a dozen people from the conservation corps.

After the morning warm-up, they split into two groups. One headed off with wheelbarrows full of shovels to the lake’s north end, where a large pile of gravel waited for the building of a pathway from a pavilion to the beach.

The second group stayed and the south side of the lake to repaint a pier.

“Hopefully people will come out here and see this for years,” said Rachel Schaff, a 14-year-old from the Riverside Builders Club.

Schaff and her classmates Kathryn Emanuel and Cara Vihinen, both 14, worked with their Riverside English teacher Cynthia Jesse, who is also the Builders Club adviser, to paint the pier.

“This is the hardest-working bunch of kids I’ve worked with,” Jesse said. “We’re trying to teach the kids to get out there and find community service efforts.”

Bassett said days like Global Youth Service Day and programs like the conservation corps’ Expedition program, a four-week service program that gets teens working in wild areas around the region, are good ways to get kids involved and active.

Across town at the Norm Schoenthal Field Lab, members of the Montana Audubon Society and Yellowstone River Parks Association, along with a few members of the conservation corps and a number of volunteers, planted trees, picked up trash and landscaped for the 41st anniversary of Earth Day, as well as the global youth project.

“It’s an international celebration of youth doing community service projects,” Bassett said.

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Contact Zach Benoit at zbenoit@billingsgazette.com or 657-1357.

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