- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Forty local businesses participated in the annual United Way Day of Caring in Calvert County on Wednesday, with a total of about 250 volunteers working on projects throughout the county.
During the Day of Caring, 33 United Way of Calvert County partner agency projects received a helping hand from participating employees of area businesses, according to UWCC 2012 statistics.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Maryland and Farming 4 Hunger teamed up Wednesday to bring about 25 fifth graders from Barstow Elementary School and an additional 20 volunteers from Community Bank, S.J. Johnson Inc. and United Way to package green beans and potatoes at Serenity Farms.
The fresh produce will go to the Southern Maryland Food Bank and other local food pantries for families in need.
Farming 4 Hunger is “a vision spiritually inspired to raise local fresh vegetables for the area pantries,” its website states.
Farming 4 Hunger has teamed up with Southern Maryland Food Bank and End Hunger in Calvert County, according to the website, to grow acres of produce for Southern Maryland families in need.
Around 10:30 Wednesday morning, there was already a trailer full of picked green beans, and a truckbed full of potatoes was being boxed.
Kelli Short, the elementary school teacher, said the fifth grade teachers received an email asking who would like to participate, and since she grew up on a farm, she “was really looking forward to going.”
About six students from each fifth grade class at Barstow were chosen, Short explained, noting that there are “plenty of others we could have chosen.”
Sophia Santoya, 10, said she was having fun and “picked like 1,000 green beans already.”
“This is good ‘cause it goes to the hungry,” she said. “And, it’ll be somebody’s dinner tonight.”
“Well maybe not tonight, but tomorrow,” said Sophia’s friend Maddie Wojcieszek, 10.
Bernie Fowler Jr., founder of Farming 4 Hunger, said he and a few others had to go out to one of the farms to grab some more green beans to keep the kids busy.
“It’s a good experience for them, and they’re having a good time, but it’s really making a difference,” he explained as he was watching the students throw potatoes into bins and boxes from the truck.
“What’s ironic,” he said, “is some of these kids are also recipients” at the local food pantries where the fresh produce they were packaging was going later in the day.
Mona Monsma, Bernie Fowler Jr.’s sister, was also there to help Wednesday.
“To watch these kids do this, it’s just such an experience for them,” she said, adding that many of them will “probably never have an experience like this again.”
Fifth grader Stephen Zack said he was having fun making a football game out of throwing the potatoes into the boxes.
“If you think about it, we’re going to be helping the hungry,” Stephen said. “And, you have to think about it. It’s not just doing this for fun.”
Mary Lu Gultekin, match support specialist with Big Brothers Big Sisters, matched the adult volunteers with the fifth graders as mentors for the day.
“They’re just taking them under their wing for a few hours,” Gultekin explained.
Amber Culver, a volunteer from Community Bank who was mentoring three students, said she was “just talking to them, and learning a little about them.”
Culver said she thought this event was “perfect” for her because she loves working with kids.
“I like seeing them excited, and anything to help them out and better the community at the same time is good.”
At the Humane Society of Calvert County in Sunderland, Kaine Homes and several of its subcontractor’s employees, as well as Humane Society volunteers, worked on making the shelter more aesthetically appealing to visitors and more comfortable for its animals.
Humane Society president Kelly St. Marie said the Humane Society has participated in the Day of Caring since it first began about 10 years ago.
“It’s really a great opportunity for us to have things done that we may not have the manpower to do, or the supplies,” St. Marie said.
Brooke Kaine, president of Kaine Homes, said this was the fourth year the company volunteered to help at the Humane Society.
“We keep coming back here because I think what they’re doing with the animals, I think we’re all sensitive to that and we like the people here,” he said. “We’ve built a relationship with everybody here over the years.”
Jim Trotter, director of field operations for Kaine Homes, said in previous years, the company has built a floor in the shelter’s storage shed, built walls inside another shed, added floor boards to kennels so the dogs could not dig under the fence, “did a lot of pruning” and landscaped the front entrance.
“There have been a lot of projects that have been done,” Trotter said.
St. Marie said Kaine Homes and its subcontractors had “a huge list” of repairs or installations to complete Wednesday, for which they bought their own supplies.
Southernwood Framing installed fascia boards on three of the shelter’s kennels, Southernwood Roofing installed gutters and downspouts on the dog kennels and Goudie Electric supplied and installed a flood light, Kaine said. He said Dunkirk Supply supplied the lumber used for the projects.
St. Marie said at night, it gets “completely pitch black” at the shelter because there are no flood lights. She said she had looked at purchasing and installing flood lights in the past, but it would have cost her several thousands of dollars.
“That’s a … big donation,” St. Marie said of Goudie Electric supplying the flood lights.
About 34 volunteers, including Humane Society volunteers, worked to also spread gravel, cleaned up around the shelter, cleaned out the drainage ditch, put in plastic piping to connect the gutters to the drainage ditch and spread mulch in the play yards for the dogs.
“We always need mulch spread in the play yard,” St. Marie said, adding that the mulch was donated by Kelly McConkey.
Marsha Sturgis, who volunteers at the Humane Society as a dog walker and also fosters dogs, said she volunteered for Wednesday’s Day of Caring because she was asked to participate. She said she was helping “beautify the area” by spreading the mulch, spreading the gravel and cleaning up.
“I’m excited,” Sturgis said. “We need that extra stuff. We need the lights and to get the drainage problem fixed. I think it’ll make the dogs more comfortable when it rains.”
Humane Society part-time employee and volunteer Michelle Ivkovich said the property sometimes floods when there is a heavy downpour of rain and installing gutters with pipes connecting to the drainage ditch will help fix that problem.
In Broomes Island, 13 volunteers were doing intensive repairs on a home as part of a Christmas in April project.
Independent contractor John Lee of Huntingtown explained that the home was owned by a couple in which the husband was an amputee and used a wheelchair.
“It was pretty bad,” Lee said of the home’s condition when the group arrived Wednesday morning.
He said from 9:30 a.m. until about 3 p.m. the group would be putting up all new siding; installing four new windows and two new doors; doing some landscaping; and removing trash from the house.
“We put everything in to make sure it’s all sealed up,” Lee said.
The organizations at that site that donated either materials or people included the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Dominion; 231 Farm Home and Pet Center; Constellation Energy; A.H. Hatcher Inc.; and Sneade’s ACE Home Center.
Lee said he has volunteered with Christmas in April since 2007 and that this was his second year volunteering for the Day of Caring.
He said the highlight of the day for him was “making a difference in people’s life and having the amount of volunteers at one location to get the job done.”