The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 13, 2013

Teens help others on ‘mystery trip’

For the Commercial-News

NEWPORT, Ind. — Vermillion County 4-H Junior Leaders went a “mystery trip” last month. They had no idea where they were going when they left the courthouse at 7 a.m. Dec. 28. They simply were told what they should wear — right down to socks and comfortable walking shoes.

All the youth knew was that it would be a service trip.

Thirty-two teens and six adults traveled by school bus and started the morning at Coburn Place on 38th Street, Indianapolis, near the state fairgrounds. Coburn Place is a safe haven for women and children escaping the most violent of domestic abuse. Housed in a former elementary school, it is filled to capacity with 35 mothers and 65 children; there are 40 families on the waiting list.

Furnished apartments include: 10 three-bedroom; 15 two-bedroom; and 15 one-bedroom, plus a lot of common areas, including a kitchen area, computer lab, toy room, hallways, stairs and some public restrooms. Most of these families left their homes with just the clothes on their backs and for many, escape was a matter of life and death.

The youth were scheduled to be there for two and a half to three hours. The teens were divided into four teams. Two teams were done with the assigned task in 20 minutes. So, they took it upon themselves to do what they felt like needed done, as the volunteer coordinators had a hard time keeping up with them.

Tasks completed included:

—Taking down and packing away all Christmas decorations in common areas and putting away in storage.

— Sorting through donations and separating by baby needs, toiletry, food, etc.

—Sorting through food in pantry and purging those out of date and writing very visibly with Sharpie the expiration date of those still on shelves before new donations were added.

— Vacuum all carpeted areas in common areas

— Sweeping and mopping all hallways

— Sanitizing all toys in common play area.

— Sorting all puzzles and bagging puzzle pieces that go together.

— Sanitizing all doorknobs, light switches, and handrails in all common areas and hallways, as well as all table surfaces and chairs in kitchen area, and all surfaces in computer lab.

— Cleaning common bathroom.

— Washing all windows in common areas.

— Bagging and taking out to Dumpster all trash from common areas.

The first three tasks listed were the only ones the youth were expected to get accomplished.

Becky Holbert, Vermillion County 4-H and youth educator, “It was very humbling for all to work in a place that so freely gives for the safety of others.”

It is a great use of a former school, she said, and, unfortunately could probably be used in a lot of communities. Their wish list is on the website.

Next on the trip was lunch at historic City Market in downtown Indianapolis. From there, they walked six or so blocks to the Rhythm Discovery Center. This is an interactive museum and a great way for folks of all ages to learn about percussion instruments.

The youth were not thrilled when they got to the entrance but had a great time once inside, Holbert said.

By the end of the visit, several were able to play by actually reading the color-coded music projected on the wall. They started with a lot of clanging, banging, and beating and progressed on their own to actually sounding like they knew what they were doing. (Check out

From the Rhythm Discovery Center, they walked four blocks to the Convention Center to visit the Indy Auto Show. After that, they had a couple of hours of free time to explore downtown Indy in groups of three or four or more Circle Center Mall.

After dinner, they tried duckpin bowling in the Fountain Square Theatre Building. The game was born in Baltimore in 1900 and it was one of Babe Ruth’s favorite games. Ten-pin bowling used to strictly be a winter sport and most alleys closed during the summer except for a few that remained open to play odd bowling games using the smaller balls. Summer bowlers suggested it might be interesting to trim the standard pins down to match the size of the small ball. Because it was much harder to get strikes and spares, the rules were changed to allow three bowls on each turn but only counted as a score of 10 if all ten pins were knocked down with the third ball.

Overall, the teens had a great time while helping others.


For more information about Vermillion County 4-H, call (765) 492-5330, visit its website at and on Facebook at Vermillion Co.4-H.