Caring about our community

If you are looking for proof that a relatively small group of people can have a great impact on an area in a relatively brief amount of time, you need only consider what happened Thursday.

That’s when the United Way of Jefferson County held its annual Day of Caring. A staple on the United Way’s calendar of events, the Day of Caring enlists volunteers from around the area to work on community service projects and to help groups and agencies with work that they may not have the staffing or money to do on their own.

Thursday’s volunteers – and there were more than 100 of them – came from many area businesses and included student volunteers. No matter where they came from or what project they worked on, they had a simple purpose in mind – to help improve just a small piece of our community. And when their work is looked at together, those little changes can add up to a positive result.

And that’s exactly what Beth Rupert-Warren, executive director of the United Way, envisioned when she planned this year’s Day of Caring.

For example, a group of student volunteers from Steubenville High School were involved with cleaning and painting the tunnel that carries foot traffic under Sunset Boulevard between Harding Middle School and Brady Circle. Other volunteers from the FirstEnergy Sammis Plant helped out in Mingo Junction by painting curbs; some from the AEP Cardinal Plant helped clean and paint inside and outside at the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center; volunteers from Wal-Mart helped with the monthly distribution at the WEBA Food Pantry in Amsterdam; workers from Trinity Health System helped to clean ivy, trim shrubs and paint at the YWCA; Apollo Pro Cleaning and Anthony Mougianis, who’s chairing the campaign for the second year in a row, cleaned CAC buses; and members of the Steubenville Rotary Club collected litter from along several streets in downtown.

I had the chance to participate with the Rotarians. The effort was spearheaded by Suzanne Kresser, and included longtime Rotarians Carolyn and Jody Glaub, Robin Flohr, Mike Mehalik and Chris Irvin.

In about two-and-a-half hours, we collected 12 bags of litter from a several-block area that included Third Street to Adams Street; Adams to Fourth Street; and Fourth to Clinton Avenue.

Many stories about litter clean-ups include tales of all the weird things people find along the way, but that really wasn’t the case Thursday. Much of what was collected included candy bar and cigarette wrappers, plastic bottles, chicken bones, half-empty beer bottles and empty beer bottles. The strangest stuff? An unopened can of beer, a brake pad off a car and an 8-ball.

It was interesting to watch several of the volunteers working on their projects. They were enjoying themselves – whether they were climbing a ladder and tearing vegetation from the side of a building, removing debris from gutters or painting a wall.

No matter the task, it was a rewarding experience, knowing they were helping others and that their work was very much appreciated.

Among the many projects completed on this year’s Day of Caring, a pedestrian tunnel was transformed from a dark and dingy ugly place to walk to a bright and clean passage underneath a busy road, nature’s efforts to reclaim several buildings were slowed for another year and a section of downtown was made a little cleaner.

With all of the bad publicity our area has received in recent months (some justified, most not), those small accomplishments are important.

They show that area residents care very deeply about their communities and are more than willing to step up and ensure they remain good places to live.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)