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Helping hands unite for a Day of Caring

Linda Preskins of MVSB freshened up the paint on a playground fence at Inter Lakes Daycare while Debbie Bolduc (FSB), John Silva (Coldwell Bankers) and Susan Giani (MVSB) scrubbed playground equipment for the kids. Out front Heidi Shaw (LSB) was busy repainting the sign post for the agency. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
September 29, 2010
LAKES REGION — Last Friday morning 173 volunteers left their day jobs behind to assist nonprofit organizations from Wolfeboro to Belmont, Laconia to Plymouth, and Sandwich west to Alexandria for the 15th year of the United Way's Day of Caring.

Calling it a "true Lakes Region event," United Way President Jack Terrill praised the group at a breakfast gathering before the day's projects got underway.

"The impact you are going to have on the community today is something we should all be very proud of. We're going to make a difference," he said.

Day of Caring organizer Pam Paquette from PSNH said the annual event has grown through the years, more than doubling in size since 2000. Projects scheduled for the workforce were things that might never have gotten done without assistance from the community as many of the nonprofit agencies had neither the manpower or time and funding to get the work done.

A new request for volunteers this year came from the Belmont Revitalization Committee, which is in the process of developing Penstock Park along the Tioga River in downtown Belmont. Project leader Ken Knowlton said his group has been working hard to "spruce up the village," and help from the volunteers to clear brush and cut some trees to build the park was greatly appreciated.

"We look forward to having a good partnership with United Way in the years to come," Knowlton said.

Corrie Hempel and Holly Andrews of Meredith Village Savings Bank and Doug Carignan of Melcher and Prescott Agency grabbed some tools and got right to work cutting and stacking brush with BRC members. It was Hempel's first year as a volunteer and she said she was thoroughly enjoying the experience. She had already met a lot of new people and said it was a nice change of pace from her duties at the bank. Andrews was a four-year veteran of Day of Caring and said it has opened her eyes to services in the region she was not previously aware of.

"The first year I helped at Baby Threads, a group I had never heard of before. Another year I was at the Youth Center in Plymouth and it was fun to learn all about that organization and all they do, too," she said.

Carignan viewed the day as an opportunity to give back to the community.

"I live and work here in the Lakes Region and it's important to help out and do something for that community. I'm at a desk all day so this is fun to do something manual. Besides, it's a great day to be outside," said Carignan as he pulled vines from the ground.

Knowlton said the Revitalization Committee will be placing picnic tables and benches along the Main Street park once the work is complete. Penstock Park will offer views of the river where old stone pillars and the large penstock pipe that once fed water to the mill will not only be scenic but give a glimpse of Belmont's heritage.

In Meredith a group at the Senior Center took on a completely different task. Four women spent their day making cards and packing 75 boxes for Marines and Rangers overseas. Candy, socks from Cabella, and some contributions from the seniors themselves will be shipped to the troops to hopefully brighten their days in service.

"The knitting group here made helmet liners for the troops and knitted squares with prayers on them that they can tuck in their pockets," said Ellen Wolff of LRGHealthcare.

Cards were also contributed by Meredith's Astra Teen Club. After completing the care packages the women cleaned and organized the center's pantry for them.

Across town other volunteers were assisting younger members of the community. Inter-Lakes Daycare Center had a number of projects to be done, from painting and planting flowers to scrubbing playground equipment for the kids, they were kept busy all afternoon as an appreciative audience looked on.

"The kids keep coming to the windows and saying 'Thank you for cleaning our playground up.' They're really cute." said Linda Preskins of MVSB.

Daycare director Connie Pelletier was very appreciative as well. With so many little ones to care for each day, opportunities to scrub the equipment or scrape and paint the sign and fence are hard to come by for her busy staff.

"The volunteers are so great to have here. They really care about having things shining and all fixed up for us," she said.

Volunteer Heidi Shaw was busy freshening up the sign on the front lawn of the center and laughed that her fellow employees would never believe she was scraping paint and working outside for the day.

"It's really good though. You fill out a sheet of things you would be interested in doing and then get assigned a job for the day. Tradesmen helping out is really nice because they do things that can be expensive for some of these organizations," Shaw said.

At day's end over $21,000 in volunteer labor made the Day of Caring a big success once again this year, organizers said. As a thank you for all the work everyone gathered at Patrick's Pub in Gilford for food and prizes as the volunteers swapped tales from their day.

Martin Lord & Osman
Martin Lord Osman
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