Story by Christina Stinnett
As we enter the fullness of the fall season, I find myself a little reluctant to let summer go. When I used to reflect upon the expression “summer vacation,” two visions simultaneously surged through my mind: sleeping late into the afternoon, where physical activity and brain power were limited to whether or not I felt like reaching for the remote, or stretching out on a towel by the pool until the sun closed my eyelids once again. Oh lazy, lazy days.
But, not for every high school student. After speaking with Russellville High School junior, Clay Moore, I learned that some kids are dedicating their entire summer breaks to service projects, to helping needy families, and sacrificing their free time to make our world a better place.
Clay, the son of Ragena Moore of Russellville and the late Butch Moore, is an active member of The First United Methodist Church of Russellville. He began his summer by participating in “Casas for Cristos,” a project similar to Habitat fro Humanity. Around 60 people from Clay’s parish stayed a week in Juarez, Mexico (right across the border from El Paso) in order to help build homes for the needy Mexican Families.
The group divided into four smaller groups and each built a house for a family during their one-week stay. Clay said his group stayed at a local church during their visit.
“The family we were building the house for worked by our side the entire time,” Clay said.
Clay’s group built the house from the ground up. They started by laying down a concrete platform then added the walls, rood, and stucco. The house consisted of two small rooms with a divider wall and electricity but no running water.
“Juarez is a poor community. The environment was very much desert and full of partially-built houses, homeless families, and bad roads.”
One day, on his way back to the work site from the church, the sewers had been emptied out in the middle of the town, Clay related.
“We had a real fun time getting around that,” Clay laughed.
After a week of hard labor, Clay said the most fulfilling moment was handing the completed house over to the family (a mother, father, two daughters and two sons).
“Building a house for a family that had nothing– the feeling I got was so indescribable. Even though it was hot and dirty you want to go right back the next day and do it again because of the way it makes you feel. The faces of the family were so memorable,” Clay said.
A mere two days after Clay arrived home from Mexico, he departed at 6 a.m. to catch a plane to Miami.
Clay was dashing off to participate in another service project offered through his involvement in Boy Scouts and Order of the Arrow.
“When I was at the 2004 National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC) at Iowa State University, I heard about a new program called “Order of the Arrow Ocean Adventure,” Clay said.
“I picked up an application and made the trip this summer to Islamorada, Florida, where the Florida SeaBase is located.”
The purpose of the program was to teach scouts how to provide service to coral reefs. Clay spent one week servicing the locate coral reefs at the heart of the Florida Keys.
“There were eight scouts from all over the country in my group. We had a great time together and really bonded,” Clay said. Clay’s program taught him important lessons in fish identification, how to monitor changes in fish population (and what the changes meant), and how to recognize signs of pollution on coral reefs, such as bleaching.
“We went on two dives each day. You are not ever supposed to touch a coral reef. We were instructed to stay two feet away from the reefs and keep other divers from toughing the. The chemical in human hands can cause irreparable damage to a reef,” Clay said.
“We got to go out on one night dive for fun,” Clay said. “It was cool because some different species came out, like eels and lobsters, which we didn’t get to see during most dives.”
In between tending to the coral reefs, Clay’s group spent time painting chapel benches and planting trees on Big Munson Island in order to help the ecosystem.
Clay’s group also got to have a campout on Big Munson Island where they kicked back, swam, played volleyball, and developed friendships.
“There are no permanent structures on the island so it was cool getting to camp there. The night we stayed there, a storm came in real quick while we were out in the water.
“It started to hail and get kind of bad, but it was still a neat experience. We built a big camp fire that night and as a group we really connected out there,” Clay said. However, the summer still didn’t end for Clay with coral-reef preserving.
After he got home from the ‘Order of the Arrow Ocean Adventure,’ he went straight to volunteering his time to help with a summer sports camp offered by his church.
“It’s an event our youth group does every year to help raise money for our mission trip to Mexico,” Clay said. The camp lasted for one week and pulled in 50 children, first through fifth grade. Clay spent the week teaching children different sports such as football, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, baseball, and archery. “In the afternoon we taught all-around activities, even yoga,” Clay said.
Even after all this, Clay still had one more important trip to squeeze into his summer. Clay went to Michigan State University for a week to the annual National Order of the Arrow Conference.
However, instead of going just for fun, Clay volunteered to work at the event. “I worked as a ‘go-to’ guy for the ‘High
Adventure Experience Program’ vendors. These were scout vendors displaying and selling gear, trail crews, representatives from programs such as the ‘Ocean Adventure’ giving information and signing people up,” Clay said. Clay’s responsibilities included helping out at various booths, passing out t-shirts, and even grabbing drinks for thirsty workers.
“NOAC has a lot of neat things to offer. This year a skateboarding group sponsored by the company Element was at the convention. They did demos and taught kids how to do tricks,” Clay said. “It’s just one of the many things there is to see there.”
It’s hard to believe that Clay fit so many service projects into one season of the year. Nevertheless, nothing about his demeanor suggested that he even slightly missed his remote control this summer.
“In all of my summer trips, I was serving, but I was never put out by it because all the people I met were also serving. It was really inspiring to see so many people reaching out,” Clay said.
“I would encourage anybody to be in the scouts. You get to do neat things an learn about the environment around you — a precious asset — and you get to lear how to use it to its best. I will be able to use the skills I have learned this summer for the rest of my life,” Clay said.
Story by Christina Stinnett