stories and reasons

Upon waking one morning it hit me that I needed to explain some real world stories about why I explain the project the way I do, and so here are the stories and reasons in no real particular order.  Enjoy.

– James Polk,


  1. Why even setup a project? — One, Parents with a kid or two on juvenile probation have a hectic set of circumstances and when your group project becomes a dependable 3 hours of community service they can take their kid to complete every Saturday it increases the odds that they will bring their kids to your other weekly activities and that they themselves might become a part of your group.  Two, Probation Officers appreciate the same thing and if you are consistent with 3 hours every Saturday from the get go, they will continue to support you and your organization by sending parents with kids on juvenile probation to you.  Juvenile Prosecutors and Probation Officers will appreciate the fact that the kids who become a part of your organization will be for the most part effectively diverted out of the system.  Three, kids who are effectively diverted out of the system and who become a part of one community organization or another have a much smaller chance of becoming entangled in the adult criminal system and end up having better lives.
  2. Why to meet on a roadside rather than have the kids come directly to your building? — There are a few reasons all at once.  One, it is neutral territory and so the kids do not feel like they are going into something intimidating like a Church.  Two, it can be a buffer between your group’s property and some of the kids who, though you don’t want it to be the case, you don’t end up wanting on your property.  You can invite some of the kids to help you do work on your property if they show themselves to be properly behaved.  Three, it gives the kids a sense that they are doing something almost like the adult convicts picking up trash in orange jumpsuits, but different because it is your community group full of friendly adults rather than aviator glasses wearing authority figures.  Four, the local roadside adoption authority needs to fill spots and you save them money in hiring a cleaning crew.  Five, it helps the environment.  Six, it gives your group a little exposure with the roadside sign that the roadside adoption authority usually gives to the groups that adopt roadsides.  Seven, it becomes a little thing that only some members of your group have done and at some point hearing other members talk about the experience will draw more of your members into the activity.
  3. Why not drive to pick kids up before the roadside cleanup and take them home after the roadside cleanup? —  This is also a multi-part answer.  One, it becomes too much of a chore.  Two, the kids can gang up in your car against you and other people in impish and sometimes dangerous ways.  This is an element of the project that I learned in a little more of a difficult way.  I had a group of boys on juvenile probation who for 3 months I drove around while picking them up and dropping them off.  I had a full-sized suburban and was a YoungLife Area Director.  YoungLife has a driver certification process and makes sure every YoungLife Leader is insured properly, and driving kids is a big part of YoungLife culture.  Even so, I do not recommend picking up and dropping off kids in the context of your roadside cleanup even if you are a YoungLife Group.  I had kids who threw their sodas back through drive-thru windows, threw hamburgers at pedestrians, threw gang signs at real live gang members who in turn gave chase putting me in a position to have to engage in evasive driving.  I just think that it is better to not drive the kids on the day you do the roadside cleanup, but to invite them to be a part of the rest of your group on some other day during the week, and then pick them up if they need rides so that they have the sense that they are a part of a different group rather than a group of kids in your vehicle defined by having all broken the law to get there and who then in turn potentially will act up like a little dog pack.  I love those kids, it is just that I think the situation can be avoided by not driving.  It is your choice really.  Three, liability.  Four, it takes multiple extra hours.  Five, you might have a kid who picks up a bowling ball from the side of the road and then bowls it through traffic from a supermarket parking lot where you stop with a few kids in the car to purchase sandwiches.  It can happen.  It did to me.  7 cars narrowly missed the ball as it rolled through a 4 lane street in Victorville, CA.  Six, when the kids become a part of your regular group and you end up driving them around, it becomes a positive reinforcement.  Seven, it is up to you, you can do whatever your organization decides to do, is a project blueprint and not an organization with rules for you to follow.  These are just things about which to be aware.
  4. Why not to provide lunch? —  You can, it just gets expensive and if you forget one weekend or can’t you will have a riot on your hands.
  5. Why only 3 hours on a Saturday and why Saturday? —  Because any more than 3 hours and the kids get restless.  They can accomplish the 3 hours without much trouble.  Also, Saturdays work well because the parents usually work Monday through Friday, They can plan out all of their kid’s community service hours by planning on bringing their kid to your roadside cleanup if they have not procrastinated and already run out of time, and a 3 hour break on a Saturday is much appreciated

more to come……..