Scavengers Welcome

“Scavengers Welcome,” New Era, Mar. 1988, 22

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Scavengers Welcome

“You want to work, and you don’t want me to pay you?” Residents of quiet neighborhoods in Fairfield County, Connecticut, can’t believe their ears.

It’s all part of a very special scavenger hunt held by the youth in the New Haven Connecticut Stake. They’ve had many similar activities, but none have been as much fun as scavenging for service projects.

On a Saturday afternoon in late autumn, 200 youth gathered for the activity before the stake dance that evening. Each service the youth performed for residents in various neighborhoods was worth a certain number of points, and the team that earned the most points in the allotted time would win an enviable prize.

They realized that scavenging for service projects isn’t like asking for a pink stocking with a hole in the toe, or a green birthday candle. “Everyone gets something out of this,” said Scott Halverson, a priest in the Trumbull First Ward. Service makes you feel good.”

The youth crowded into their advisers’ cars and drove to their assigned neighborhoods. They were a little apprehensive at first, wondering how people would react.

“Everyone was amazed,” said Curry Andrews, a priest from the Newtown Ward. “One guy took about ten minutes just deciding what he wanted us to do.” And the neighbors were even more surprised when they saw that youth enjoyed what they were doing.

Dave Blanchard, a teacher from the Trumbull First Ward, walked a huge dog. “The dog was giving the owner a lot of trouble, so we offered to take him for a walk,” Dave said. “The dog sure was hard to control. He would turn around and snap at me and all of a sudden he would run off. I could hardly hold on to the leash. It got to be funny.”

Jeff Blanchard, Dave’s older brother, carried items from a tag (yard) sale back into a man’s garage and stacked the boxes against the wall. “The guy asked for my phone number so he could call me anytime he wanted me to do some work for him,” said Jeff.

Becky Rupart’s team found themselves in a very well-to-do neighborhood. “It was a little bit scary, but that made it more fun,” said the Laurel from the Southington Ward. “We were surprised to discover rich people can be just as friendly as anyone else.”

Many people wanted to pay the youth, but naturally, they refused. “Although one man gave us a six pack of soda pop,” said Nancy Busby, a Laurel in the Trumbull Third Ward.

New Englanders are traditionally reserved and not accustomed to being open with strangers. Many New Englanders live a fast-paced life and are less involved with their neighbors. “I was kind of surprised this worked here where people keep to themselves,” said Leslie. “It’s fun to loosen people up,” Jeff added, “although one guy thought it was a trick. I guess it’s hard to trust a group of teenage boys.”

The diversity in people’s reactions amazed the youth. “It was really weird,” said Jeff. “You’d offer to do anything for a guy and he would tell you to go away because you were a stranger. I guess our experience going door-to-door is kind of like missionary work.”

And they found plenty of missionary opportunities along the way. Before they had even arrived at their assigned neighborhood, Leslie Randall’s team saw a man on his lawn. They got out of the car and showed him the list so he could choose which service he wanted. “He asked us to tell him about the Church,” Leslie said. They told him about Joseph Smith, and he responded, “I’ve heard that story before, but I’ve never heard it so well said.”

“It’s fun to give the people a good impression of the Church,” said Becky. “Maybe if the people meet the missionaries someday, they will remember us.” Some of the boys even left pamphlets with people in hopes that it would lead to something later.

“We are like the missionaries who represent the Church when they bring the gospel,” said Jeff. “We represent the Church when we bring service.”

Along with the missionary work, the youth enjoyed just being with each other. “Working together was the most fun,” said Leslie Randall. “At one house, two of us washed dishes in the kitchen, while two dusted the living room and one changed a diaper in the baby’s room. All the time we were singing a song.”

Diaper changing was the most notorious assignment of the day. In one group, all five teammates, girls and boys, pitched in together to complete the odious task. But in another group, Joanna McLay, as the only girl among four boys, found she was the one selected whenever her team encountered a diaper to change.

The competitors learned that they had to work quickly and efficiently. “The boys on my team practically grabbed the rake out of one guy’s hand, while I introduced the group and told him why we were there,” said Bret Smith, a Young Men’s adviser. The teams generally split into two groups, two people taking one house and the other two going across the street.

“We washed two cars at one house in record time,” said Curry Andrews.

When the time was finally up and the scores were tallied, Curry’s all-boys’ team found itself in second place, defeated by an all-girls’ team. “I don’t believe they beat us,” Curry said. “How could anyone work faster than we did?”

Next time Curry wants girls on his team. “Girls are allowed to go inside a house because people trust them,” he said.

Kelly Corkrin, a member of the winning team, won’t disagree. She found everyone her team met had a little something for them to do. “It made me feel good that the people trusted us and let us into their homes,” she said. “Nowadays, I’m not sure I would do that. I guess they were impressed that we weren’t just hanging out, wasting time.”

There were no hard feelings between the two top teams, however. Both first- and second-place winners received the coveted prizes: water squirting toys. As the winners loaded their weapons, everyone else ran to arm themselves with the same old tools they’d been using all day: water buckets and empty soap bottles. The activity ended with a splash.

How to Plan a Service Scavenger Hunt

1. Before the event, select a number of neighborhoods that a member of the Church is familiar with. Draw maps that tell how to get from the chapel to the neighborhood. Indicate the neighborhood boundaries that the team should stay within.

2. At the event, divide the group into teams of four to five youth. Give each team a task sheet, assigning each task a point value. You can use the suggested list, or come up with your own list of possible tasks.

3. Assign one adult driver to each team. Provide each team with a map of their assigned neighborhood.

4. The teams have one hour after travel time to earn as many points as possible doing tasks for residents of the neighborhoods.

5. Youth should introduce themselves as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). They should let the homeowner know they are on a service scavenger hunt and would like to perform a service free of charge.

6. After completing each task, the team should ask the homeowner to initial the task sheet. No more than four tasks should be completed at any one home. Some tasks are worth more points than others. The team who earns the most points in the allotted time wins.

Task Sheet





1. Take out trash


2. Scrub sink


3. Sweep kitchen


4. Pick up yard trash


5. Feed the cat


6. Water the plants


7. Sweep the garage


8. Wash the dishes


9. Clean a window


10. Vacuum the living room


11. Bring in firewood


12. Read a story to a child


13. Walk the dog


14. Dry the dishes


15. Dust a room


16. Iron a shirt


17. Sing a church song


18. Change a diaper


19. Wash the car


20. Clean the car windows


21. Vacuum the car


22. Rake the front yard


23. Rake the backyard


24. Mop the kitchen floor


25. Tell about the Church


26. Homeowner’s choice


Photography by JeaNette Goates Smith

The object of the activity was to do as many different services for the people in the neighborhood as they could in one hour. The team that accomplished the most was the winner. In the process, the neighbors learned about the Church, and the youth learned about working for others.