ON THE SCENE: With two community events, youth lead the way

Mom Andrea Grout, Ellie Evans and aunt and mentor Tricia Garrett are seen here at the annual Cleanup Day in Lake Placid on Saturday, May 13. (Photo provided — Naj Wikoff)

Saturday, May 13, featured two youth-led activities. One was a community pancake breakfast served by North Country School students, who also harvested the eggs used in making the pancakes, guided visitors throughout the campus, and helped paint faces and sell garden seedlings. The other was Lake Placid’s annual Cleanup Day, led by Lake Placid High School senior Ellie Evans, which featured youth from ages 2 on up, out with their parents and friends picking up litter throughout the village.

Missing was a good turnout by adults as attendance was down, especially at the cleanup, which is a pity on many levels. Low numbers were also true for the afternoon John Brown Day tribute to Russell Banks.

The North Country School campus is simply magical. North Country School students all have garden and livestock chores, from feeding chickens, pigs, goats and horses — which they also groom — to weeding, growing, planting, and watering seedlings. Then they go to class. Featured was making sets, props and creatures for the upcoming play based on “The Hobbit.”

“We haven’t held a community breakfast in four years,” said Todd Ormiston, executive director of the school and Camp Treetops. “Twenty-nineteen was the last one. Community engagement is important for us, such as bringing people on our campus so they can experience the wide range of activities our students are engaged in every day, which at this time of year includes the student play ‘The Hobbit’ that takes place during the week of May 24.”

On Saturday, the dining room was abuzz. After arriving, guests are escorted to their table, which leads them past a center aisle filled with various healthy cereals and granolas on one end, yogurts, pitchers of milk, large bowls of fresh fruit and teas and juices at the other. Once seated, your waiter hands you a menu; starving or not, finding something yearned for is not an option. Oh yes, it’s all organic, super healthy and delicious.

Pat Loud, Ruth Richards and Karen Dummire eat breakfast at the annual community pancake breakfast at North Country School in Lake Placid on Saturday, May 13. (Photo provided — Naj Wikoff)

My waiter, ninth grader Enola, said she likes the farm activities and the array of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and canoeing.

“We take care of pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, and horses every morning and afternoon,” said Enola. “I like taking care of the chickens the best.”

Enjoying breakfast were Pat Loud, Ruth Richards and Karen Dummire. Pat and Karen said they loved their “delicious” breakfast and were glad the school started hosting them again.

“It’s so special to have it available for the community and let them know what a gem this place is,” said Pat. “It’s a special slice of heaven.”

“I am a longtime resident of Lake Placid, and I had no idea this place existed,” said Richards. “I’m speechless. I am so charmed; it gives me hope.”

A team from St. Eustace Episcopal Church participates in the annual Cleanup Day in Lake Placid on Saturday, May 13. (Photo provided — Naj Wikoff)

Simultaneously, at the Beach House in Lake Placid, Ellie Evans, her mom Andrea Grout, and aunt and mentor Tricia Garrett, greeted volunteers, gave out assignments and plastic bags and offered a wide array of breakfast snacks to lift people’s energy.

Evans was well organized and had put a lot of thought into using social media to increase awareness, which included creating promotional posters, a website, a Google registration system, an Instagram presence and a QR code to facilitate participation.

“My mom and aunt have been running the Cleanup Day for 10 years, and I assisted them over that time,” said Ellie. “This year, I’m taking over some of the organizational tasks and helping run it as part of my Senior Capstone Project. My goal is to leave as much of a mark as possible because I’m going off to college in the fall. I took Cleanup Day because I felt I could do much to make the planning, marketing, and registration easier. Plus, all my friends are coming, it’s mandatory. I also got it approved as a National Honor Society volunteer event.”

As part of her planning, Ellie established the improvements so that others could easily update them in the future.

“I’m incredibly proud of Ellie,” said her mom Andrea Grout. “She’s amazing. Ellie’s always been involved and creative about improving the event and getting more people to care about the environment. Encouraging people to come out helps them think outside themselves, give back, and beautify the community. Nobody likes looking at trash. We must work hard to escape the it’s-not-my-problem mentality because anyone who’d throw something out their window is disgusting to me. I think the more we spread the notion of maintaining a clean community; it shows that you care about other people and our environment.”

Emily Kilburn Politi and kids Bee and Frank participate in the annual Cleanup Day in Lake Placid on Saturday, May 13. (Photo provided — Naj Wikoff)

Unfortunately, the amount of litter along Lake Placid’s roadsides is staggering. Volunteers collected seven large leaf-sized bags filled with beer cans and much more gathered along Old Military Road between just Carolyn Road and state Route 86, slightly over a half mile. A family of four matched that in the parking lot on Wesvalley Road. Had they more help, they could have collected far, far more.

“We are picking up a lot of junk, which includes a lot of leftover building material, winter sports games hats, hand warmers, and such, along with bottles and hotshots,” said Andrea Hudak. “Seeing all this stuff that people throw out makes me sad.”

Daughter Gabby found a golden egg; inside was a note for $20, eggs placed in high-trash areas as incentives for young people’s involvement. Luke got a certificate for maple syrup last year.

“We’ve been out for almost two hours,” said Luke Hudak. “This is probably one of the rougher areas as it probably gets more out-of-towners as it’s a big parking lot for events, so a lot of people tossing their trash who are not invested in the community. I think it’s good to get kids out here helping to clean up so they can see the mess and be encouraged not to litter in the future. It’s unfortunate to see the condition of this place.”

I found Emily Politi and her kids Bee and Frank cleaning near the junction of Wesvalley and Mill Pond Drive, having hit McKinley, Middle, and School Street before that, leaving a trail of several ladened trashbags for the town crews to pick up.

“If I saw someone throwing their trash out their car window, I’d say pick it up and put it in the garbage,” said Frank.

“We are particularly grateful to the Lake Placid Garden Club, Whiteface Lodge, Central Garage, McDonald’s and Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, the Uihlein Foundation, the Cornell Uihlein Maple Forest, Ironman Lake Placid, the town of North Elba and the village of Lake Placid for their support and generosity,” said Andrea Grout. “We couldn’t do it without them and the wonderful volunteers in the community.”

(Naj Wikoff lives in Keene Valley. He has been covering events for the Lake Placid News for more than 15 years.)

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