A local youth group gave back to the community last week by cleaning up downtown Van Buren and spending time with the elderly.

"The Beat" youth group made up of about 25 sixth, seventh and eighth graders who attend Heritage Church in Van Buren spent part of their summer vacation in community service.

As part of their Area Mission Project, the kids spent time June 18 pulling weeds and sweeping in front of downtown businesses.

"The kids have been with us since Tuesday, and they have just been going around the community serving and talking to people," said youth leader Brandi Puckett.

The kids visited Pointer Trail Health and Rehab June 19, where they played games, had lunch, worked on crafts and visited with the elderly residents, said Bob Odiome, middle school minister at Heritage.

June 20 was spent cleaning weeds and vines from the facade of a property on Pointer Trail owned by Heritage, but most of the kids’ service was spent outside the church, Odiome said.

"What we’re trying to teach them is that to serve Jesus, you serve people," Odiome said.

Odiome planned for the kids to return that evening to the businesses they had cleaned up to pray for their owners and the resurrection of the downtown area, he said.

As part of The Beat, kids get an opportunity to participate in a number of activities throughout the summer, including a fireworks celebration, matinee movie days, prayer groups, and field trips to water parks and ball games.

Older kids can join The Pulse youth group for grades 9-12.