Penguins with a purpose

11/29/2013

Youth group uses penguin planting to raise funds for local Angel Tree program.

Youth group uses penguin planting to raise funds for local Angel Tree program.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Merry little elves from the First Christian Church have been busy the past couple of weeks planting penguins in people's yards as part of an effort to help out the Salvation Army Angel Tree program.

"We're the penguin ninjas," Bridget Rhoades, church member, said Wednesday night.

Members of "Peace Out," the church youth group, sets a group of wooden penguins in people's yards and then, for a donation of $10, comes and removes them. Then the process repeats itself.

The "Peace Out Penguins" are wooden cutouts about four feet high painted to look like penguins.

Rhoades said youth group leaders thought it would be good for the kids to raise money that would then be used to help the community.

"I'm gonna say that we are going to come extremely close to $500," Rhoades said. "That would be awesome if we got that much. There hasn't been hardly one person that has only given the $10. Almost everybody has given more."

Wednesday night, the youngsters set a pack of penguins in front of the home of Efraim and Teresa Picazo. Leticia Sauseda, a church member, said the penguins were a surprise for her parents.

"I've been wanting to get my parents. We've been doing rotations and only have two sets of penguins, so we hadn't had a chance to yet," Sauseda said.

The idea for the penguins came about when youth group leaders were looking for ideas for fundraisers and decided they wanted to help with the Angel Tree program. The group consists of about 15 to 20 children ages pre-school through fourth grade.

The group has been out every night, with the exception of the previous two Wednesdays, for the past couple of weeks.

The group has two sets of penguins, with four penguins per set.

Money raised will be used to purchase gifts next month to help the Angel Tree program.

Sauseda said that initially the plan was to continue nightly setups, but it's been so successful, she thinks the group might continue doing it up to Christmas.

"This is the first year we've done it, so we didn't know how big of a hit it was going to be. I've gone with the kids a few nights. It's pretty fun," Sauseda said. "I don't think we had a set goal in mind, we just wanted enough to be able to purchase something for a kid off the Angel Tree. We were hoping for just one, but the first week we did it, we made about $80 just the first few days."

Rhoades said the penguins mainly have been set up at homes of people within the church, but at some point, she expects the penguins may start going out to community people, too.

"It's going to touch our community, not just our church," she said.

Another church member, Lori Curl, said the Peace Out youth group has been going on for several years.

"This year, we decided to do community service with our kids, and this is our first community service project," she said. "We did do decorations for the nursing home for Thanksgiving, and now we're doing this."

Curl said this is the first year for the penguins. A member of the congregation, Gerald Belknap, cut the penguins out of wood, and Rhoades painted them.

"Bridget really brought the design to life," Curl said. "The kids love it. They really have a blast. It's the highlight of the evening to go do penguins."

Rhoades' daughter, Kallista, 9, said she feels good about doing something so others get to have Christmas.

"I get to help people," she said.

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