A growing group of Boone County youths are learning that even though they are young, they can make a difference in their community.

For more than a decade, Youth as Resources, a group affiliated with the United Way of Central Indiana, has been providing grants to community-minded youths in Zionsville and throughout Boone County.

Since 1995, Youth as Resources has been giving small grants to youth-led groups to do volunteer community service projects in the Boone County-area, said Geri Rogers, Boone County director of YAR.

In that time, the group has funded 113 projects, with 2,960 youth volunteers and distributed more than $96,000.

This year, YAR has already sponsored at least five projects led by Zionsville youths, and with a second grant cycle to be completed in November, more Zionsville groups could receive support.

One group from the Zionsville United Methodist Church used a grant to purchase back-to-school supplies that were distributed to teenagers through the Caring Center in Lebanon. Another used a grant to support the teen’s summer reading program at the Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library. And yet a third group entertained residents in Boone County nursing homes with a YAR grant.

Two Zionsville boys used the grants to help with their projects to become Eagle Scouts. One scout used a grant to build picnic tables for the Advance town park and another used a grant to build handicap-accessible picnic tables for the Morning Dove Therapeutic Riding stable.

A major project the YAR grants have supported is the installation of the green metallic signs on mailboxes throughout the county that help emergency vehicles find homes.

Rogers said 4-H groups around the county have applied in shifts for grants to help pay for the signs so that townships were finished one at a time to not create a burden on Youth as Resources. The county-wide project is nearing completion, she said.

Caring Center

Rachel Booze said she became aware of Lebanon’s Caring Center and its need through her church, ZUMC.

She said she and the members of her group wanted to “give teenagers a fresh start to go back to school” and decided to make up care packages for teenagers.

The group received a YAR grant used to buy 20 backpacks and fill them with personal items such as socks, underwear, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste and deodorant, she said.

The need for the items was so severe that as the group was delivering them in the back door, they were being distributed out the front door, she said.

“They were so happy we were bringing it in,” Booze said.

Along with receiving the grant, group members went to local businesses to request funds, she said.

The group got a small donation from Target, but also a large donation from Wal-Mart that will allow them to purchase more items and make a second donation to start the second semester in January, she said.

She said the group will talk to the Caring Center coordinator later in the year to determine what the most immediate needs are in January.

“It’s really cool to go out there to see how much you could help,” Booze said. “It was really rewarding and definitely worthwhile.”

Teen Reading

The Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library has a program every summer to encourage teenagers to read, and the library’s Teen Council used a YAR grant to purchase prizes to entice teens to participate in the program.

The council used the grant to purchase prizes for readers, including the summer’s grand prize, an iPod Nano, said Laura Douglas, who served on the council’s grant committee.

Teen Librarian Carrie Smith said the grant allowed the council to purchase prizes they otherwise would not have been able to afford.

The number of participants and the numbers of pages they read on average has increased in recent years and the quality of the prizes has had a lot to do with the increases, Smith said.

Douglas said more than 490 students participated in the summer reading program, which exceeded the goal of the council.

The teens read 1,463,399 pages this summer, which is almost 3,000 pages per participant, Smith said.

She said the council has received Youth as Resources grants several times since 1999 and that support has made the teen reading program successful.

“I think its great and it really does enable us to do a lot that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do,” Smith said.

Music and Munchies

Ellen Litkowski said she and her friends started playing music together more than a year ago.

Litkowski plays the piano, Sarah Ellis plays the violin, Lauren Evenson the oboe and Darcy Ellis the cello.

When they first started , they just played classical music and other standards they like, Litkowski said.

She said the group decided to start playing in front of an audience and applied for a grant to cover the cost of new music and to visit Boone County nursing homes for a concert.

The group plays mostly classical music, but also some standards such as “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” in a 30-minute concert, she said.

After the concert, the groups serves snacks and visits with the residents, she said.

The group are visiting five Boone County nursing homes for their program, called Music and Munchies. They started in June and have two more concerts planned, Litkowski said.

She said performing in the nursing homes started out as a nerve-wracking experience, but has been a lot of fun.

The socializing has been the best part of the project for the members of the group, she said.

“For all of us, it’s a generation we don’t have a lot of contact with, it makes it a neat opportunity,” she said.

The grant process

YAR has two grant cycles every year for groups interested in funding programs. The fall cycle has recently passed, but the spring cycle will begin in January, Rogers said.

Youth interested in applying for a grant have to first fill out an application, and there are several grant workshops at the start of each grant cycle to tutor them in the grant process.

Rogers said the grant process is a real learning experience for any youth, and they have to do their own homework to prepare.

Parents cannot do the work for their kids, because the youth have to go before the grant committee to answer questions about their grant proposals, she said.

Booze said she had to do a lot of initial shopping to find the exact expense of items in her proposal and had to do a fair amount of paperwork to prepare for the application and interview processes.

Part of the interview process is to demonstrate to the committee that their is a need for the program, Rogers said.

It is also an opportunity for applicants to showcase what they will be doing.

Booze said she brought two backpacks with the personal items inside so the committee could see what she wanted to do with the grant money.

Douglas said she was a little nervous to speak in front of the grant committee about the summer reading grant, but the group she was on that applied for the grant was prepared because the other members of the library teen council had grilled them with questions the grant committee might ask.

Booze said she was put at ease in the interview process because the committee was friendly.

The application process was easy to complete, but the interview process was a bit hard, Litkowski said.

She said she and her group were nervous because they decided to give the grant committee a sample of their music and it was the first time they had performed before an audience.

The whole process is a great opportunity, Litkowski said.

“I really recommend it, and it would have been nice to do it earlier,” she said.

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