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Odd Job Squad tackles tough yards

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Thursday, August 09, 2007

FORT SIMPSON - If you have some tough yard work that you've been dreading tackling, help is available in Fort Simpson in the form of the Odd Job Squad.

With a name that sounds like a mismatched band of superheroes, the squad is actually made up of local youth who applied to the Deh Cho Friendship Centre to get a summer job.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Members of the Odd Job Squad including Michael Kraus, left, Billy-Jo Burrill and Dylan Cazon take a short break after some heavy yard work. Missing from the picture are Ben Amundson and Jordan Nahanni. - photo courtesy of Emma Amundson

The Odd Job Squad is a program that has been run by the centre for a number of years, said Emma Amundson, the program co-ordinator at the centre. The squad gives youth who might not otherwise have a summer job the chance to earn some money, she said.

Twelve youth applied for the program this year.

Starting on July 10, youth who were available on any given day were given a job. Although some people lost interest, three of the youth have stayed on through the whole summer, said Amundson.

Unruly lots of grass transformed into tidy lawns are the calling card of the squad. The Friendship Centre provides two push lawnmowers, two Weed Eaters, rakes and all the garbage bags that are needed for even the toughest yard.

One of the squad members, Michael Kraus, maintains the machines.

So far the squad has been in demand. Interest grew after the squad tackled half a lot, a job that took them almost four days.

The youth posted a notice stating who was doing the work and from that they received 12 calls.

"We've had quite a bit of work," said Amundson.

The squad can only be found on lawns in the afternoons from 1 to 4 p.m. because that's the period of time that Amundson can supervise them.

Because the youth are working with machines, Amundson said she stays with them for safety reasons.

"They work really hard for the three hours," she said.

Because most of the clients have yards that are overgrown, the members of the squad go through a long process to whip the yards into shape.

The first step is to trim the grass with a Weed Eater and then rake and bag all the cuttings. Then they go over the grass with a lawnmower and rake and bag the cuttings.

The most challenging lot so far was full of weeds and thorny plants that had to be disposed of first. When it was all finished the workers had filled about 21 garbage bags with grass clippings, which added up to two-and-a-half truck loads to the dump, said Amundson.

That yard was also their most expensive job to date, coming out to $200. When the squad starts a job the rate is negotiated. Most people don't seem to mind paying, said Amundson.

"They're just happy they don't have to do it, and the kids like doing it," she said.

All of the money from each job is divided among the squad members. The squad isn't just for boys; two girls are also part of the team but work in the Friendship Centre's office.

The squad will be on the job until Aug. 24 and might also take on a few jobs in September. There's room for three or four more yards to be tackled, said Amundson.