Armed with a small spade, 8-year-old Bradley Mills put all of his effort into digging up weeds outside the Children's Home in Catonsville.
"Is this a weed, Mom?" he asked his mother, Michelle, as he prepared to drive the spade into the dirt on the Bloomsbury Avenue campus on Sept. 8.
"Yes," she said.
Down went the spade. Within a few minutes, out came the weed. On to the next one.
For the third year in row, Mills and his mother weeded and planted new flowers and shrubs at the Catonsville residential care center as part of Christian Temple Christian Church's annual Respond to the Call — a day of community service dedicated to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The two were among approximately 100 volunteers who helped organizations in and around Catonsville with everything from landscaping and building shelves to assembling care packages and making casseroles.
"It's one of those you've-got-dirt-under-your-fingernails-but-you-feel-good-at-the-end-of-the-day days," said Diane Preisinger, event coordinator.
Dressed in bright green T-shirts, volunteers gathered at the church on Edmondson Avenue early Saturday morning to receive their location assignments and meet their teammates.
Darrian Mazyck volunteered to pick and crate apples at the First Fruits Farm, a nonprofit ministry in Freeland that grows vegetables on its more than 100-acre farm for the hungry.
The Catonsville High School senior, who has volunteered with Respond to the Call for four years, was joined by a team of eight other students and several adults at the farm.
Mazyck said he enjoys being outside and giving back to his community.
"It's a good event," he said. "I willingly give up my weekend to do it. I just like helping other people out."
The national Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) launched Respond to the Call in 2002 to honor victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said Jayna Powell, a Christian Temple youth group leader and wife of the church's pastor, Rick Powell.
But Christian Temple also has a personal connection to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Honor Elizabeth Wainio, known to friends and family as Lizz, died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed that day in Pennsylvania. The 27-year-old former Catonsville resident and her family knew many of the Christian Temple members, including long-time family friend Laurie Lane.
The church hosted Wainio's memorial service in 2001. When it came time to hold the first Respond to the Call, church members asked Wainio's parents, Ben Wainio and Esther Heymann, if they could dedicate the day to their daughter.
The couple embraced the idea, Lane said.
"It's really the answer to turning around your pain and sadness," Lane said. "I knew Lizz since she was a child. I loved her. This is a way to honor and celebrate her life."
During a pre-event service Saturday morning, Powell thanked volunteers on Heymann's behalf.
"(Heymann) said, 'This is what should be done to remember those whose lives were lost in Sept. 11,' " Powell said.
Hatred does not win, Powell said.
"Love is what conquers all," she said.
Bradley Mills was born two years after the attacks occurred.
While he may be too young to understand the full implications of the day, it's never too early to teach him the value of service, as well as the importance of remembering those who died, his mother said.
"We're trying to pay it forward and do good things," said Michelle Mills. "And hopefully, have a better world for him as he continues to get older."
Volunteers helped the following organizations during the 11th annual Respond to the Call on Sept. 8:
• The Children's Home,
• Glynn Taff Assisted Living,
• Catonsville Emergency Food Ministry,
• First Fruits Farm,
• Habitat for Humanity
• The Samaritan Women.
Volunteers also worked out of the church to knit baby caps for infants, bake casseroles for a local homeless shelter, landscape the church grounds and prepare materials for the church education program.