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‘Day of Caring’ volunteers tidy up elementary school grounds

Date: 9/6/2013

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD – Southampton Road Elementary School received some much-needed landscaping as employees from local businesses donated their time for the United Way Day of Caring on Aug. 30.

Nearly 1,000 volunteers that worked at 35 different locations to assist with more than 80 projects to benefit the Pioneer Valley made the United Way of Pioneer Valley event possible.

“We have a lot of work to get done inside and outside. It’s very time consuming – there’s not enough hours in the day [for the staff to keep up]. For the volunteers to have come in to do this is amazing,” Kathleen O'Donnell, principal, said.

Volunteers scurried about like worker bees pruning bushes, trimming hedges, pulling weeds and spreading mulch. Employees from Westfield Band, MassMutual and Financial Partners worked together to complete the tasks.

“The most rewarding part of the day is seeing the kids walk buy and say thank you,” volunteer Ashley Clark said. “If anybody has the opportunity to contribute their time, it’s well worth it.”

The helpers’ day started at 9 a.m., was interrupted by a fire drill and ended in the early afternoon. The main task was spreading 40 yards of mulch under two swing sets, a jungle gym and a playscape. A freshly groomed landscape was the fruit of their labor.

“For the few hours they’re here, they make such a difference,” O’Donnell said, adding that the help resulted in budget cost savings for the school. She explained that the mulch is not only pleasing to the eye, but helps prevents injuries if a child should fall.

Why volunteer? Donna Gilbert, senior administrator for Human Resources at Financial Partners explained, “I’ve been a United Way volunteer for 10 years. I lend my time because I think it’s a great cause and because at one point in my life, I needed help and people were there for me. It’s giving back.”