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To change the whole world, it’s good to start in your own backyard. Lilla Marigza follows some volunteers who chose to spend a Sunday in their community park rather than in their church pews.

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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Topeka, Kansas)

A sea of red flooded parks in northeast Kansas for the first annual “Hands on Topeka.”

Jaron McConnell, Teenager: “This park has always been messy and I just wanted to come out here and clean it up.”

Amy Mentzer, Teenager: “It’s kind of nice to like help out. I think it’s pretty fun.”

Members of 22 United Methodist churches left their pews on a Sunday to place recycling bins, rake leaves and pick up trash in nine community parks.

Young volunteer: “It’s been really fun cleaning out the pond and helping. And seeing all the little tadpoles running around the lake.”

Young volunteer: “I think the funniest thing we’ve pulled out of the pond today was a lawn chair.”

Participants of all ages pitched in and filled 1,200 trash bags.

Jayna McFarland, Volunteer (with baby): “It was such a great idea that we decided we just had to jump in and get involved no matter what. Even though she’s kind of a challenge, but we thought we had to find a way to be involved.”

Eight hundred church members signed on for the simultaneous day of service, but the pool of volunteers grew close to 1,000 as neighbors joined in.

Patrick Woods, Volunteer: “The guy who lived across the street came out and we gave him a lunch and put him to work. You know, it’s that kind of open hearts and open doors that people really enjoy. That’s why it’s my church.”

Organizers say there is already excitement for next year’s event. In the meantime, they hope “Hands on Topeka” might inspire similar events.

The Rev. Andrew Gardner, Grace United Methodist Church, Topeka: “We hope that when people remember the red shirts with ‘Rethink Church’ they think of The United Methodist Church, that we’re people who were concerned about the community.”

Evelyn Fischer, Volunteer: “We even got credit for cleaning a park we didn’t clean because somebody in a restaurant said, ‘What’s going on? Oh that’s the Methodists.’ So the word is out that United Methodists are making a difference.”

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“Hands on Topeka” is part of the Change the World event sponsored by The United Methodist Church. 

Also, see: Kansans spruce up community parks

Posted: April 14, 2010