If you're worried the world is falling apart, pick up a hammer.

That's what Steven Fitzgerald and his buddies did when they read about problems at the municipal park at Patriot Lake in Galloway Township, and it's a lesson to be drawn from several recent stories about area folks who are making a difference by rolling up their sleeves.

Fitzgerald, who owns Smithville Barber Shoppe, Andy Dailey, of Absecon, who works at Village Greene, and others spent $130 and a few hours repairing the outside of a public restroom at the park. The restroom has been repeatedly vandalized, making an otherwise beautiful park and playground inconvenient to use.

Galloway Township officials have said it's difficult to find the money for repairs and that it's frustrating to fix public facilities only to have them vandalized again. Those are understandable reactions, but you have to admit that Fitzgerald's reaction - to get out his toolbox - is a bit more inspiring.

That impulse to just do what needs to be done is behind a lot of volunteer efforts in our area, including those of the Family Association of Northfield. This group of parents has taken over some of the city's youth sports programs and maintenance of the recreation space in Birch Grove Park. FAN volunteers have added a new scoreboard, public restrooms and landscaping and have renovated the park's snack bar.

There's nothing new about such efforts, of course. Every town has dedicated people who make time for projects that benefit others. Every charity depends on such people. The FAN volunteers are following a long tradition, doing for their own children and their neighbors' children what their parents did for them.

But recognizing these efforts is a good antidote to the creeping feeling we all sometimes get that events are spinning out of our control.

A more ambitious plan, although one also aimed at supporting youth activities, was announced last week by the Egg Harbor Township Police Athletic League when the group dedicated land for a $5 million youth facility.

In two years, PAL intends to open the 45,000-square-foot Buddy's Adventure Zone, which will combine indoor athletic areas with classrooms and child care space, a technology center and a teen Internet cafe. Township PAL Executive Director Hector Tavarez said the facility is intended to help young people stay physically fit and encourage more of them to be interested in technology and science.

Youth fitness and the science education gap are big issues that have many people throwing up their hands. Instead, like their neighbors in Galloway Township and Northfield, the EHT PAL volunteers aren't afraid to get theirs dirty.

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