We try our best to help others in need — sometimes even organize volunteers to help others in the community. But last week the roles were reversed — and we were the grateful recipients of a volunteer group full of energy and good works.
Last week 34 junior high students from the Arch Dioceses of Seattle (the greater Seattle-Tacoma area) came to the Harbor to offer their time and work. We were one of about 10 organizations that they helped.
Meredith Leigh, the 26-year-old Jesuit volunteer and director of Youth Ministry at St. Mary’s Church in Aberdeen this past year, organized the service project called “One Week” on Grays Harbor. There is also a “One Week” service project for high school kids. For us, it fulfilled our annual “NeighborWorks Week” event where we do clean-ups or painting or something that focuses volunteers on a community need. This year the volunteers did that and helped us here.
“Service trips overseas are good. But one thing we wanted to demonstrate is that you don’t have to go far to find people in need,” said Meredith. “There are places all over where people need work done.”
The junior high students and their 10 adult chaperones stayed at Our Lady of Good Hope parish in Hoquiam each night and worked hard throughout the community during the day.
Maybe you were startled over “junior high” — Meredith said while she was seeing which organization could use some help, some folks weren’t sure how much junior high students could accomplish.
“Actually, they were focused, good workers that got a lot accomplished,” she said.
We here at NeighborWorks can attest to that! The nine boys and girls and their two adult helpers accomplished a lot for us and we were pleased with not only the amount, but also the quality of their hard work. Their cheerful attitudes made light work of all that was put before them. This is a group event that we will always have a list for if they want to help!
On Monday they painted the skirting of two apartments in our multi-family subsidized housing complex. That afternoon they painted the lower seven feet of a small house in Hoquiam for one of our long time homebuyers who couldn’t do it all himself. (A special thanks to Nick McKenna, store manager of Sherwin-Williams in Aberdeen, who stepped up to help our community by donating paint for this project.)
Tuesday, two more buildings got their skirting painted and they also tidied up our parking lots – scraping edges and sweeping. Wednesday it was a raining on and off and instead of painting they shoveled a large pile of compost into a trailer at one of our rental properties!
While that group was busy helping us, other groups of junior high volunteers helped at the Hoquiam Food Bank, the Salvation Army, the Ocean Shores Food Bank, the Feed the Hungry Program through Catholic Community Services, the Aberdeen Senior Center, the Hoquiam senior center, Habitat for Humanity, Aberdeen Parks and Recreation, the Union Gospel Mission and the private residences of five parishioners in need. And somewhere in there they also found time to help create a prayer trail for St. Paul’s Church in Westport.
Their tasks included painting, yard work, serving food and packaging food. At Habitat for Humanity, they were able to take a huge garage full of donated items, clean it up, price it and get it onto the shelves.
Kevin Gomez of Federal Way is 12 and will be entering the seventh grade soon. He said that he had a great week and felt proud of what he and the others accomplished. “I’ll do it again because it’s fun and I want to help people,” he said.
“There was a lot of excitement with the kids. They were really glad to be there and help,” Meredith said. “I saw Christ in them really. It was just really great for them to help people in need. They got so much work done. They were able to see the things they can do. … Like I said, you don’t have to fly halfway across the world to help others.
“I think the kids were also impressed with how grateful people were. One lady couldn’t walk to her house and they cleared a path for her through her yard and she was so grateful, “ Meredith said. “The sites were just thrilled with the jobs they did!”
We know we were! And we were also encouraged to see the blooming of the next generation of volunteers who give of themselves to help others.
Thank you Youth Ministry Volunteers!
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the Executive Director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.
Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.