• Young boys clean blighted yard, learn life lessons


    It was an entertaining sight for Northaven residents, but overall they were greatly appreciative to see the neighborhood boys mowing, trimming and raking the yards of abandoned homes Saturday morning.

    "They out here struggling with the blower and everything and it is too cute to see them work," says Stephanie Dotson, a Northaven resident for three years, "We get the children out here doing something and we get the lots cleared. I think it's great."

    It's a part of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell's initiative to clean up blight in Northaven. The county government sends notices to owners of vacant property letting them know they need to clean up their overgrown yards.

    If the government receives no response, Steve Schular with the Shelby County Government, says someone still had to cut the yard, but county employees are in short supply. The government partnered with Impact Baptist Church and Ministries to give neighborhood kids something to do and teach them life lessons.

    "Trying to use the children to build a sense of pride and sense of ‘This is our community. We're going to help make our community look beautiful,'" says Pastor Michael C. Ellis, Sr., of Impact Baptist Church and Ministries.

    The neighborhood boys are also a part of the Northaven Bulldogs youth football team, made up of five- to eight-year-old boys. They will receive a portion of the money from grooming the yards to help them pay for registration fees and new uniforms.

    "A lot of parents cannot afford to pay for their child to play so I asked all those kids to come out and help," says Northaven Bulldogs Coach Ricky Jefferson.

    It's another life lesson for the young boys.

    "When you earn what you get, you have a sense of pride and sense of accomplishment when you do it, rather than somebody saying, ‘Here take this money,' and you say, ‘Okay thanks!' After a while you forgot where it came from," says Ellis, "When you work and earn it, you remember the sweat that it took to get it."

    Despite the sweat and occasional struggle, the boys are ready to go to work again.

    "I've been out here since eight o'clock this morning and I wouldn't trade this moment for nothing," says Northaven Bulldogs Assistant Coach Deterryon Hunt, "If I had to do it every day I would do it."

    The kids are paid $100 per yard; they earned $300 after cutting three yards on Saturday. Jefferson says he will split that money among the eight kids that worked to help pay their football registration fees and for their uniforms.

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