The weather this October has been quite dry and comfortably warm. Saturday, the 12th was no exception. My only fear was that I didn’t put the right address to the right parking lot to Anderson Park. I picked up Camron at St. Basil’s at 8:15 and arrived at the Monitor Merrimac Overlook parking lot in about 15 minutes later. As I had hoped, Phil and Jai saw my car. They had Jacob Butts, his father is Arch-Priest Joseph, with them. Emanuel Tessema’s mom drove him over to us just before we started our Third Hour Prayers.
Idiot that I am, I forgot to pick up extra trash bags. But, a Newport News Parks attendant drove up with a couple of court workers. He was more than happy to lend us a few very large bags and didn’t mind leaving the little strip of beach for us to clean up. As we worked, park visitors admired and thanked us for what we were doing. They had never heard of Orthodox Christians. I should get business cards made up.
I can’t help but to brag a little about our Teen SOYO. These over-achievers climbed the rip-rap rocks and were pulling trash from between them. This is not the safest thing in the world to do. It is so easy to loose footing, or have a large rock roll on an ankle. But, not a piece of trash escaped them. We did far more than the court workers who were “volun-told” to clean the area. After an hour, Paddy and Yonah Edens showed up as we filled up about 8 large trash bags.
Crossing the bridge on Salter’s Creek, we hit Anderson Park. As is their custom, the fellas went right to the rocky bank. Fifteen year old boys like risking their ankles. Fifty year old men think about better ways of doing things. Yeah, I did pull some larger items off the rocks. But, something told me there was a nice sandy beach that really needed some attention. I was more than right. Along the end of the park, the beach was cluttered with plastic bottles, junk food bags, I even saw a barnacle encrusted bike.
I tried to call one of the guys to let them know to come down to where I was. They didn’t answer the phone. An 11 year old kid saw me working and decided to give me a hand. By the time my “crew” came down, it was already close to noon. We said our Sixth Hour Prayers and went back to St. Basil for some well-deserved pizza.
This trip reinforced my idea that there are people who would be interested in the same sort of programs we offer at York River State Park. Everyone likes a litter free park to enjoy a romantic view of the water or a place to fish with a buddy or two. Every kid likes to explore a nearby river or seashore. Having Phil Riske as my Teen SOYO assistant is a blessing as he works at the Hermitage Gardens & Museum. His plant expertise can come in handy when the weather warms up again and flowers are in bloom.
So, I am knocking on doors down in the East End. I sent e-mails to the local elementary schools and Boys & Girls Clubs asking them to have me as a volunteer and to give them a State Parks In Classroom Experience (SPICE) program. I am also inspired to break out my camera gear and go back to my old BayStride Images pursuit of outdoor photography. Camron suggested that we partner with a local church that serves meals to the food insecure and homeless. I can definitely see that happening. There are many ideas and possibilities for our fellowship to grow. As for now, we’ll go with the advice someone once gave Fr. Paul Abernathy as he was trying to bring an Orthodox ministry to Pittsburgh’s Hill District; “Just say your prayers and everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.”