A day of service
by TRACEY BARNES PRIESTLEY
IT'S AMAZING HOW A SIMPLE IDEA -- PEOPLE helping people -- can evolve into an entire day of community improvement. But that's exactly what has happened with the annual "Day of Caring." Scheduled this year for Saturday, Sept. 20, it's one day of the year when citizens from every conceivable corner of our community join together to pour their time and energy into community service. This year approximately 400 generous volunteers will put good old-fashioned elbow grease into many different and diverse projects throughout the county.
The Day of Caring first appeared on the local scene 10 years ago, thanks to the efforts of United Way. Carolyn Walden, executive director of United Way of Humboldt County, explained: "It began as a signature event for our annual campaign, as it demonstrated the true value of volunteering." The idea quickly caught on, Walden believes, in part because "people up here are so gung-ho about caring." Joined by Humboldt State University and the Volunteer Center of the Redwoods, the annual day of community service has grown nearly every year. Walden added: "It has become a full community event demonstrating what can be accomplished when we all work together."
Unfortunately, budget issues forced the Volunteer Center of the Redwoods to withdraw this year, but Humboldt State continues to be an active and full participant in the day's activities. Volunteers include students, staff and faculty. Annie Bolick-Floss, HSU's Service Learning Coordinator, who heads the program, is an enthusiastic supporter of the Day of Caring. It's clear she believes in this day. "For our students, both new and returning, it is an opportunity for them to connect with their community. The day also reinforces an underlying ethic of Humboldt State University -- giving to our community." Students throw themselves into their assigned projects, and staff and faculty have been known to arrive with their children in tow. This year, HSU President Rollin Richmond will be there to lend a helping hand. To me, there is no better example than when those at the top roll up their sleeves and pitch in.
This year's Day of Caring is scheduled to coincide with California Coastal Cleanup Day. On Saturday, eight local beaches, from Ferndale to Clam Beach, will get a much needed cleanup. But clean beaches are just the beginning, as an additional 29 different projects are scheduled for the Day of Caring. Here's a partial look at just what will get done by hardworking volunteers: Bayside Grange will receive habitat restoration and interior renovation; the Boys and Girls Club will get the interior of their facility painted; the City of Blue Lake Parks and Recreation Department will have their tennis and basketball courts weeded; Dow's Prairie School will be able to improve its school garden; those dinosaur footprints in the parking lot of the HSU Natural History Museum will benefit from a needed cleaning; Humboldt Women for Shelter will receive yard maintenance and garage clean up; the Mobile Medical Office is going to get its motor home washed and waxed; and United Indian Health Service will get help in the restored wetlands of the Potowat Health Village and parking lot.
Simple projects, really, yet important to the overall function of many valuable services. Walden noted that for many agencies, "The money may not be available, but through the Day of Caring, labor and community contributions can make a real difference." Walden went on to explain that the impact often carries beyond the day of service: "It puts volunteers in contact with organizations they may not have heard of before but may ultimately be motivated to get involved with because of their experiences." As she said, "Volunteerism can be contagious."
And as if the folks who volunteer their time and effort weren't enough good news all by themselves, my hat goes off to the Henderson Center and Humboldt Bay Kiwanis Clubs. These two organizations make their own unique contribution to the Day of Caring by sponsoring, preparing and serving a "thank you" barbecue for the volunteers.
Would you like to participate? It's not too late to find a project that could use a hand. Call United Way at 443-8637 for information on how you may be of service.
But for some of you, this large, organized approach may not be your style. Not a problem! Feel free to exercise your own personal approach to caring. Talk to your family, your friends -- are there projects in your own neighborhood that could get done? Could an elderly neighbor benefit from some yard work? Maybe you could volunteer to update the neighborhood phone tree, something very useful during an emergency. How about collecting canned food and donating it to the food banks? In other words, do whatever you want in the spirit of caring because when we all do a little, a lot gets done.
© Copyright 2003, North Coast Journal, Inc.