Youth Shayne Carver speaks at church about service at Star Gazing Farm

Shayne with the construction crew

Shayne with the construction crew

My name is Shayne Carver. I am currently a senior in high school. For the past four years, I have been a member of the Quince Orchard High School football team. I originally started playing football at the age of eight in the Poolesville youth program. Fortunately, in all those years of playing I have never suffered a concussion; at least none that I can recall. But what I do recall is how much I loved the town of Poolesville. I especially remember how much I loved the 20 minute drive from my home in Gaithersburg, through the rolling hills and farms of Upper Montgomery County; far from the hustle and bustle of city life. Sadly, that horizon is slowly becoming cluttered with development and new construction where crops once grew.

Although I live in the city, I’ve always pictured myself living on a farm. Just four years ago, I decided to see what it might be like, so I started volunteering at Mr. Newman’s farm in Boyds, Maryland. Now, Mr. Newman isn’t the nicest guy in town. In fact, he can be a bit crusty. He never has anything pleasant to say, and he never wants to hear your opinion. The term “personal space” is foreign to Mr. Newman. He’s even somewhat of a kleptomaniac, and has been known to help himself to your lunch. Visitors are advised to lock their car doors in fear of losing valuables or having Mr. Newman nap in your front seat. In the four years that I have volunteered for him, he has never once thanked me.

I guess you might be wondering why I have continued to serve him. Am I just a glutton for punishment? Well, the answer is simple… Mr. Newman is actually a 160 pound goat who is a permanent resident and self-proclaimed boss at the Stargazing Farm. This small, four acre farm is an animal sanctuary that takes in abused, stray, and unwanted farm animals in need and provides them a permanent home.

Despite the name “Star Gazing Farm”, it is a true working farm and an extreme amount of labor goes into keeping it running. The farm hosts more than forty animals, including horses, donkeys, llamas, goats, ducks, geese, chickens, rabbits, sheep, cats, pigs, dogs, and a 2000 pound Holstein steer named Bullwinkle. Volunteers are an integral part of keeping the farm alive. Anyone eleven or older is welcomed to pitch in. Even though the farm’s roster lists over eighty volunteers, the bulk of the work is done by a core group of about 20 people. I am proud to be included in that “core group”.

Over the past few years, I have recruited friends, scout troop members, high school teammates, and parents to work on a number of construction and beautification projects. Coleman Martinis, Christopher Nyborg and Caleb Chipman have done their Eagle projects there and Jackson Shawen is starting his soon. We have built a chicken coop, a goat hutch, storage shelving, several hundred feet of fencing, and converted an old shed into a visitor’s center. I’ve trimmed trees, painted and repaired fences, organized storage areas, replaced roofs, and made several trips to the dump. On the farm’s behalf, I have negotiated with a local mill to donate lumber needed for fencing and other projects. I have also bartered with a local tree cutting company to provide firewood to fuel the farm’s lone source of heat, the wood stove.

I have learned that physical service to your community is valuable in itself, but helping others also offers you many benefits. Service can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also help you gain a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals. Whatever your age or life situation, service can help take your mind off your own worries. And the physical activity involved in certain forms of service can be good for your health at any age.

It is easy to see how things have changed for the better since that first day that I volunteered at the farm over four years ago. While I have grown over 5 inches in height, I believe I have grown even more as a person. With the patient guidance from my mentor at the farm, Mr. Mike Van Norden, my confidence as a leader has increased as we successfully completed each project. I have shared many of the responsibilities of planning these projects including estimating and securing supplies, assembling volunteers, accommodating for the animals, accounting for the weather, ensuring everyone’s safety, all while staying on budget. I have learned to value hard work and take pride in seeing plans followed through to completion. And I have come to truly admire the men that wear their “blue collar” with pride. Men like my Grandfathers. Men like Mr. Mike Van Norden. Those that get the job done.

Because of the confidence that I have gained through my experiences at the farm, I now have a plan for my future. I have recently been in contact with Mr. Brigg Bunker: President of Foulger-Pratt Construction and will be working for them this summer. Next September, I will be attending Brigham Young University, and plan on majoring in Construction Management. One day I would like to own my own construction business.

I’ll close with a quote from the late great actress and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn:

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”