By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Although the saying God loves a cheerful giver refers to financial contributions, it could easily apply in another sense to a Joplin church youth group and leaders, who recently gave of their time and hard work to help many.
High school and adult volunteers from First United Methodist Church recently returned from a trip to Colorado where they helped with recovery and restoration efforts associated with wildfires.
Youth director Barry Sanborn led last month's efforts and two previous missions in 2008 and 2004. And, this probably won't be the last, he said.
"Because of the number of fires in Colorado, they are going to need help for a long time," said Sanborn, who heard of the need from a Methodist church in Kansas City in 2003.
More than 30 high school students and seven leaders gave up what could have been a week of summer vacation to combine forces with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte Watershed and Wildfire Recovery Team near Colorado Springs.
In addition to planting 870 new trees, volunteers built waterways on burned land, moved logs to build fencing and participated in other projects to help minimize future adverse environmental problems. Sanborn said students learned a lot about restoration efforts and also developed an appreciation for clean and plentiful drinking water.
Sam Croy, a Joplin High School graduate who will be attending St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., this fall, said the week that group members put in there was nothing short of intense. Although the work might have been generally classified as landscaping, there was a lot more hands-on involvement than merely planting trees.
"We mulched and chipped a lot of wood," said Croy, who was on his first mission trip to Colorado. "In fact, we chipped a pile of wood five feet high about the size of a city block."
Another part of the mission had to do with building log erosion barriers. Croy said that involved taking burned out logs and making speed bumps in the water.
The Colorado coalition thanked the Joplin volunteers and told them they probably would not get any other recognition for all their hard work Ñ except from the people they helped.
"They wanted us to know that we helped out thousands of people by shaping the upper parts of the mountains," Croy said.
Funds for the mission were raised through the high school spring break rummage sale last year.
Youth services were held each night during the week-long mission in which the Joplin volunteers were put up at churches and YMCA facilities.
Forestry workers from the coalition returned the favor in 2011 when they came to Joplin to help with tornado recovery efforts.
It has worked since 1998 to protect a 2,600-mile watershed that reaches from the Continental Divide to Strontia Springs Reservoir southwest of Denver. The watershed provides municipal water to about three-fourths of Colorado's residents.