EMLENTON - A pair of teams with Keystone SMILES had one thing in mind this week while they were at Mineral Springs Park - preserve the history and natural beauty of Emlenton's community jewel.

For two days, about 20 young volunteers with the Knox-based educational nonprofit that partners with AmeriCorps scoured metal surfaces, did some painting and cleared brush.

Emlenton Mayor Jamie Hunt, who also was there, said he has been working over the past couple of years with Keystone SMILES Executive Director Joyce Fosdick to find a way to do a project at Mineral Springs.

"With COVID-19, things were a bit rocky for a while. I thought an outdoor project would work out well," said Hunt, who has been working alongside the volunteers each day and helped coordinate efforts with the municipality.

Hunt said the plan was to revitalize the historic area and repaint the Quaker State sign on the Crawford tank.

"When we started out it was completely overgrown," he said. "By the time they left, it was not."

The second part of the work was to renovate the pavilion and picnic tables. The volunteers were painting the pavilion a deep green.

"They are giving back to the community," team leader Libby Hanford said. "All of the kids are from Venango and Clarion counties."

Briar Kentzel, of Emlenton, who has served with AmeriCorps for two years,

said this this is one of the best summer jobs that anyone could hope to have.

"You are doing community service or helping mentor younger kids," he said. "You get introduced to things some kids don't get to experience, like carpentry. You get a chance to branch out.

"Before last summer, I wasn't crazy about kids. But after last summer, I actually thought about going into some form of education after my service in the Navy."

Sligo resident Claire Saylor has been with AmeriCorps for about a month and works with Keystone SMILES in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) enrichment program.

"Currently, we have been prepping kids for STEM activities," she said. "We still serve with AmeriCorps, and this is part of what we do.

"A couple of weeks ago, we did some planters for downtown Knox. We do work with kids and the community as well. I like it."

And Oil City resident Giles Carter, who is in his second term, likes the work in which the program involves him.

"I had a good friend who served with AmeriCorps and she told me about the program," he said.

"Currently, I am with the House of Trades program. Right now, we are fixing houses that were condemned and putting them back on the market. I have been working on two houses in Oil City."

And, now, restoration of Mineral Springs is another project the program's young members can say they had a part in.

"We really appreciate their work in helping to restore this historic area," Hunt said.