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Taylorsville Journal

Taylorsville Youth Council roaring back a year after coronavirus effectively shut them down

Feb 23, 2022 07:36PM ● By Carl Fauver

The Taylorsville Youth Council donated sacks and sacks of food, for a Thanksgiving feast, to a needy family. (Courtesy Kris Heineman)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

When Youth Council Mayor and Student Ambassador Emma Powers concocted her idea for a community service project, the Taylorsville High School senior’s goal was humble enough. But thanks to generosity from throughout the community, the result of her clothing drive was nothing short of tremendous.

“My original goal was to gather 60 pounds of donated clothing, and we ended up with 415 pounds, stuffed into 17 big plastic bags,” Powers said. “As for the cash donation, I didn’t even solicit monetary contributions. I heard after the fact, The Crossroads of Taylorsville donated $5,000. And an anonymous donor doubled that, creating a $10,000 donation.”

Powers’ incredibly successful community service project is just one of several highlights the Taylorsville Youth Council has enjoyed since last fall, in what can only be described as a “bounce-back” year for the group.

For years, the Taylorsville Youth Council adviser has been City Council Coordinator Kris Heineman.

“COVID really messed up our Youth Council year (from September 2020 through June 2021), with nearly everything being cancelled for the kids,” Heineman said. “That group missed out on a Sub-for-Santa project, the Day at the Legislature, our leadership conference at Utah State. It was awful. But so far this year (September 2021 through June 2022), with vaccines and masks, it’s been much better—almost completely back to normal.”

Next up for the eight boys and seven girls who make up the Taylorsville Youth Council is that three-day, two-night leadership conference at Utah State University, March 17–19.

“This will be our council’s first USU Leadership Conference since 2019,” Heineman said. “Of course last year, the entire event was cancelled. But back in 2020, so many student leaders from around Utah were registered that they broke it into two sessions. Half the kids got to attend the first session, in early March. But then the total pandemic lockdown hit, and the second —session including our —were out of luck. Our council members were crushed.”

Little did they, or any of us, know then, that was just the beginning of lots of cancellations and reschedulings.

“All 15 of our Taylorsville Youth Council members will attend this year’s conference,” Heineman added. “I’ll also be there, along with Mayor [Kristie] Overson. I’m guessing some city council members will show up too.”

“I’m looking forward to the USU conference because our students learn so many leadership skills and participate in lots of service projects,” Overson said. “We’re all still concerned about COVID and will take precautions. But things are opening up. It’s a fun opportunity for our council members.”

Overson and Heineman also joined 12 of their 15 youth council members for the annual Day at the Legislature on Jan. 19. Again, that event, sponsored by the Utah League of Cities and Towns, had to be scrubbed last year. Taylorsville City Council members Anna Barbieri, Ernest Burgess and Meredith Harker also tagged along.

“Our Day at the Legislature was amazing,” Powers said. “I was able to go in 2020 as a sophomore, and I was really disappointed when it was cancelled last year. Part of the fun this year came when we attended a flag orientation class. I guess they are considering changing our Utah state flag. So, after the class, we got to draw our own flags. Mine had mountains and a few (natural red rock arches). It wasn’t very good, but some other council members drew great ones.”

This year’s Day at the Legislature allowed Taylorsville Youth Council members to meet Gov. Spencer Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and several legislators. The group also enjoyed a guided tour of the State Capitol and sat in on a House debate.

The day on Capitol Hill came about a month after Powers completed her clothing drive. She organized the event to fulfill one of her student council ambassador obligations. Once she and fellow ambassador Brandon Sorensen complete their required activities—including separate community service projects—the Taylorsville City Council will award each of them a $750 college scholarship.

“I designed fliers advertising the clothing drive and posted information on social media,” Emma said. “Then I had two big events to accept the donations. First, we had a big donation box at the Saturday with Santa (Dec. 4) event, at the Taylorsville Bennion Heritage Center. Then five days later, our collection box was out again when the city hosted its holiday open house at the [Mid-Valley Performing] Arts Center. I would say the amount of donated clothing was pretty evenly split [from the two events].”

Taylorsville Economic Development Specialist Jean Ashby says it was at that second event where The Crossroads of Taylorsville shopping complex officials learned of the drive and decided to open their checkbook.

“They contacted the city [after the open house], and it was all because of Emma’s clothing drive,” Ashby said. “It was a blizzard that night of the holiday social (Dec. 9), but we still had 100 to 110 people there. Luckily, The Crossroads of Taylorsville people attended. This is one of the largest donations I have ever seen, especially for a youth project like this.”

After searching with no luck to find a Taylorsville-based charitable organization that could accept the 415 pounds of donated clothing, Powers turned instead to the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake. Meantime, Crossroads of Taylorsville donors were able to time their $5,000 donation so it would be matched by an anonymous Rescue Mission donor. That’s what turned their $5,000 into $10,000.

“I was so amazed and humbled when I found out about the monetary donation,” Powers said. “I am so thankful to everyone who helped me organize the clothing drive, and, of course, to all the people who donated. I’m so excited about how it turned out.”

One final note, the Taylorsville Youth Council was also able to return to another pair of traditions the pandemic spoiled the previous year, when they assisted a needy family of five in the community. The council provided the family with a Thanksgiving meal in November and spent about 800 donated dollars to purchase Sub-for-Santa Christmas gifts the following month.

“This is such a good group of student leaders—super-motivated for community service,” said concluded. “I would say this is one of the top two Taylorsville Youth Council groups I have ever had. I’m so happy we’ve been able to return to a more normal schedule of activities for them this year.”

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