Wake up, Williamsburg! While you were sleeping last Saturday morning there were real live Mormons cleaning up McCarren Park.
More than 100 19- to 30-year-old Mormons from across the tri-state area woke up at 7 am, prayed, and trekked to Greenpoint to pick up trash and rake leaves as part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ annual community service day for young singles.
Most of the stubbly, pierced, carefully disheveled masses woke up well after their Mormon cohorts left at 12:30 pm, and few of those who were awake ventured out in the gloomy weather last Saturday to notice the interlaced-hands logo on the volunteers’ yellow-mesh jerseys.
Jessica Weinschenk and her boyfriend Justin Urra, 24, woke up at 3 pm and were shocked to learn that Mormons had briefly descended on their neighborhood.
“Really? Mormons?” asked 22-year-old Jessica Weinschenk. “I guess it’s not that weird because religious people do stuff like that. And hey, it’s cool if someone wants to clean our park for us. But why Williamsburg?”
Though it’s tempting to think that the Mormons chose Williamsburg because it is packed with aimless, Godless, young people crying out for conversion, the Church chose this particular park because the Parks Department identified it as the most in need of maintenance of any in the five boroughs.
The act of largesse confused Weinschenk, who said she had not volunteered since high school. Urra has never done community service and even chose to go to jail rather than do a court-mandated subway cleanup.
“I threw my bike through some guy’s window who hit me and they ordered me to clean-up the Houston Street station. I got the date, and went there, and some guy handed me cleaning stuff,” he said. “I sat down for a minute, thought about it, and was like, ‘I’m out of here.’ So I went to brunch at Café Colonial.”
Of 20 Williamsburg residents in the park on Sunday, photographer Phillip Angert, 25, was the only person who said he had served a community in some form.
“I just got back from Burning Man and when you leave you have to spend four hours cleaning up after yourself,” he said. “It’s this really amazing experiment in community.”
The Mormons, on the other hand, volunteer regularly, whether it’s doing public service events organized by a local congregation or missionary work in different countries.
“You just try to think of others, right?” said 25-year-old Greg Reeves, who helped organize Saturday’s event. “The other day, there were these Japanese girls trying to get off the subway and they had these huge bags of luggage so I helped them carry up their bags.”
Reeves believes that someone else would have helped the travelers if he had not.
“New Yorkers have a hard shell, but I think generally they are pretty nice people,” he said.
©2009 Community News Group
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