Area Shows They Care

Day of Caring event draws record number of volunteers
By Chesley Oxendine
coxendine@muskogeephoenix.com

More than 200 volunteers spread out across Muskogee on Friday to build shelves, paint rooms, clean out closets and more during the Lake Area United Way Day of Caring.

The volunteers came from Georgia-Pacific, Oklahoma Natural Gas and students from Oktaha Middle School and Oktaha High School. They visited nonprofits like the WISH House, the Barracks veterans’ center, and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, where they helped with “construction, repair, and maintenance projects,” said LAUW Executive Director Lisa Smith. “For a nonprofit organization, the money they don’t have to spend on maintenance, repairs or labor is money they can spend elsewhere,” Smith said. “It gets translated directly back into client services. It’s money they could spend helping people.” Between the 200 volunteers working roughly eight-hour days, Smith said, the LAUW assisted with roughly $36,800 in “economic impact.” “The independent sector kind of rates the cost of volunteer time at $23, $24 an hour,” Smith said. “That doesn’t include social, health
benefits of volunteering, and the altruistic feeling that volunteering gives.”

It was a feeling expressed by the Oktaha students helping at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center. The kids, ranging from grades seven to 12, built shelves and cleaned out closets under the guidance of Neighbors Building Neighborhoods’ program director Lauren Hazen. “They’re fantastic,” Hazen said, of the students. “We just turned them loose and they got the job done.” Senior Megan Ballard said she enjoyed getting out of the school building to assist others. “It’s pretty cool because you get to go on an adventure and help people while you’re at it,” Ballard said. “And you’ve got this whole big group to work together.”The big group was a blessing, said sophomore Anna Fulton, when assembling the shelves.“It was really hard, to be honest,” Fulton said. “It takes teamwork.” Eighth-grader Peyton Capps echoed the sentiment.“We did our best, and they’re together,” Capps said. “It takes four different people to get the second tier on.”

Across town, Oklahoma Natural Gas employees spent the Day of Caring painting rooms in the Salvation Army building. The group painted two restrooms, a nursery, and a Sunday school classroom, said Lt. Charles Smith. “It’s kind of ironic, because normally we go out and volunteer services,” Lt. Smith said. “Those rooms haven’t been painted in 20 or 30 years, so it’s been a while.” Lisa Smith said that the large number of volunteers – a record for the event – represented a community willing to help others.
“We had a lot of people who wanted to help one another,” she said. “Everyone’s really giving back to this community.”