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Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Bryan Mark, left, Eric Archuleta and Amanda Valentine, members of the Clinton Youth Council, put together care packages for youths during the Utah Youth Service Marathon at the Capitol Saturday.

At 17, Amanda Valentine is already a veteran in reaching out to those less fortunate in her hometown of Clinton. Her four years of service in the Clinton Youth Council has earned her a leadership role as the group's mayor, and she, along with the rest of her council, was at the Capitol Saturday working on a service project to kick off a program that aims to involve youths like her from across the state in making positive changes in their communities.

The Utah Youth Service Marathon is the brainchild of YouthLINC — a Utah service group that was started in 1999 with 20 participants. It now numbers 130 members who have contributed more than 70,000 hours to projects across Utah and around the world.

Founder and executive director Judy Zone said her group has partnered with a variety of state agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide seed money and guidance to 26 youth-led projects.

"The Service Marathon will involve thousands of Utah youth during the entire '08-09 school year planning and leading community-based projects that meet a variety of needs — from homelessness to the environment, from health and fitness to literacy, from special needs to refugees," Zone said.

Zone said the project is accepting proposals until Oct. 24 and is looking for "impactful service projects that last the school year and involve as many community members as possible."

She also noted that geographic distribution would play a role in project selection, with the goal, in part, to help communities from across the state.

Representatives from each of the partner groups will participate in the project selection process, with each successful proposal slated to receive $1,000 in start-up money. Zone said projects are expected to seek their own in-kind and financial partnerships with the seed funds contributed by the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation. Final selections are scheduled to be completed by Nov. 3.

Valentine and her group from Clinton hope to be on that list of chosen projects and are working on their proposal.

"We're hoping to do a project to help out the homeless," Valentine said. "We're going to gather supplies once a month and donate them to shelters like the Road Home."

Emily Brown is YouthLINC's Service Marathon director and said she's heard from a group in San Juan about a plan to connect children with Native American Elders and another from Tintic (a longtime mining community southwest of Utah Lake) to create a plan to educate residents of the area on the dangers of lead.

Zone said the true value of service is that everybody comes out ahead.

"The power of service goes beyond the help that individual communities get," Zone said. "Each person involved gains something ... betters themselves, by bettering others."

Further information and proposal applications can be found at www.youthlinc.org or www.servicemarathon.org.

E-mail: [email protected]