United Way hosts first Aroostook County Day of Service
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — June 18 marked Aroostook County Day of Service, a county-wide event dedicated to community service led by volunteers from the United Way of Aroostook.
In Presque Isle, volunteers participated in various service projects at local businesses and organizations including GIFT Food Pantry, the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce, the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library and more.
Volunteers across The County spent a few hours at one or more of the 20 service sites, helping to improve the quality of businesses and organizations in the area. They bagged potatoes for recipients at the food pantry, planted flowers at the library’s community garden, helped with landscaping cleanup and whatever else was needed.
United Way started The County Day of Service program after realizing a need for more community involvement. Locke said that local businesses and organizations want to help their communities, but often lack the necessary time to plan service projects.
The County Day of Service resolves that problem, according to Locke.
United Way’s goal for the day was to recruit 100 volunteers. They exceeded that goal on Tuesday, with 121 total volunteers across The County. “Most of these volunteers are community members and business owners,” she said.
Locke said that United Way documented a total of 425 volunteer hours for the day.
Some locations had more than one project on Tuesday, one being the Grace Interfaith Food Table, or GIFT, in Presque Isle. Charlene Buzza, director of volunteers, said that United Way volunteers helped bring over food items from the food shelters and organized the collections at the facility.
The people working in the pantry are unpaid volunteers who donate their time to help the rest of the community, Buzza said. “We serve anywhere between 25 to 30 families in any given week,” she said.
During the month of May, GIFT provided food to 253 families in the area, according to Buzza.
Volunteers also completed tasks at three different locations for the Aroostook County Action Program. At the Gouldville School, which is now an ACAP Center, volunteers helped with raking, painting, and organizing storage. Monica Pettengill Jerkins, resource developer of ACAP, said that volunteers went “above and beyond,” and even completed tasks that weren’t on their initial project list.
She said that ACAP was “pleasantly surprised” with the amount of work that the volunteers did at all three centers. For them, the Day of Service program was especially helpful because volunteers completed projects that don’t normally fit within their budget as paid work, such as cleaning the gardens or reorganizing storage areas.
In addition to Presque Isle, volunteers also helped out with projects in Caribou, Ashland, Washburn, Houlton, Madawaska, Monticello and Eagle Lake.
In southern Aroostook County, volunteers worked with Catholic Charities clothing operation; nine Katahdin Trust volunteers helping ACAP’s Head Start and childcare program with cleaning and sorting out a storage shed, cleaning windows and making the playground safe; Adopt A Block Aroostook saw 12 volunteers from State Farm, Northern Maine Realty, and community members help by staining a retaining wall around the playground and picnic tables.
Locke said United Way plans to make the Day of Service an annual tradition in The County. “We thought it was a great success,” she said.