FORT POLK, La. - Several teens from Child, Youth and School Service Hired! program put in a hard day's work May 7 at the Warrior Community Center. They hauled dozens of chairs - enough for the more than 180 guests - and grouped dining tables with an eye towards perfection. Some teens sorted tablecloths by size, a harder task than it seems, and made sure there was not a wrinkle in sight as they laid them carefully on the tables. The teens worked six hours that day, the day before Mother's Day, in preparation for the Mother's Day Brunch, sponsored by the Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
The next day was no easier for the 15 teens who volunteered to give area mothers a special day. The teens arrived at 8 a.m. to make their final preparations.
By 9 a.m., mothers and their families began filing in. They sat down to pristine tables, each one with a miniature rosebush as a centerpiece. On the menu was food prepared by Chef Charles Johnson: A carving station with roast beef, carved by Chris Jackson II, 17; breakfast foods, side dishes and desserts, arranged and served by Beyra Monge, 15.
"That was my first experience carving," said Jackson. "I think I did a good job. I think carving was definitely important: The women's husbands might not have been happy if there hadn't been any meat there."
Diane Tucker, 17, took photos of the occasion and was one of two hostesses.
"I gave each mother who came in a carnation and brought them to their tables," she said.
Darius Price, 16, took care of the dirty dishes.
"Have you seen the show 'Dirty Jobs'' Ours would be one of them," he said. "We dealt with all the trash and dirty plates. We were killing ourselves back there, sweating. I won't lie: I was hurting. It was a long day, but IAca,!E+think we made a difference for the mothers who attended that day." Kevin Cooper, 15, also dealt with dirty dishes.
"I found out that washing dishes is not easy. I learned it's a lot of work," he said. "I have a new respect for what people who do this go through. I broke some dishes; I over-stacked them. It was a lesson in diligence, no matter what you're doing. It's the simple things, like clean dishes and silverware, which have a big impact. We wanted everything to be perfect."
James "JJ" Jones, 17, also washed dishes, to his dismay."It was gross," he said. "There was one with a pancake stuck to the bottom. I was like 'oh, man.' I had to scrape it off with my hands.
"Walking on a slippery floor was hard," he added. "You had to shuffle along very carefully. Then imagine a big stack of dishes coming towards you. You tell yourself 'don't slip!' You're walking towards the dishwasher and saying to yourself 'Don't drop that plate - it's your life!' and 'Are we done yet'' but then comes another load of dishes."
Even with sticky pancake hands and a new talent for balance, Jones felt the day was a good experience for him.
"I learned I need to make good decisions in life so I don't end up washing dishes," he said.
Mytarious Thomas, 17, was a jack-of-all-trades during the Mother's Day brunch.
"I hurried around, went to get spoons for whoever needed spoons, helped the waitresses. I made sure the tables were put together right so people who were waiting could eat."
For Mytarious, the experience was a learning one.
"It was pretty life-changing," he said. "I know now whenever I work somewhere to wear the right shoes. I almost fell twice. The floor was wet and I needed more traction. It definitely got me in shape. I also learned that you have to hustle and put all of your effort into whatever job you do. If I hadn't been doing my job, the whole thing might have been a disaster. I feel like I made a difference. That felt good."
Kimmi Fifield, 15, was the youngest of the group and came at the end to help with cleanup.
Lessons in diligence and responsibility are good ones to learn, and the bunch learned them in abundance.
"Hard work like that definitely teaches you responsibility," Fifield said. "Before that, I'd never worked a day in my life. It was hard, but you learn patience and responsibility."
At the end of the day, the miniature rosebush centerpieces were handed out to the teens who had put in the hard work; many of them gave the roses to their mothers.
"My mother loved it," said Fifield. "She put her rosebush in the garden but she kills everything she plants. But she appreciated the gesture."
According to the teens, the day went well.
"Everyone gave us feedback, telling us how much they enjoyed it," said Jackson.
Tucker added, "Mothers have a hard job, so I wanted them to have a nice time. And I think they did."