The United Way of Junction City-Geary County will host their annual Day of Caring event Oct. 17 around the community. The day is a way to assist the elderly and disabled members of the community with basic yard maintenance that may have stacked up over the summer and “stuff that one would get a Blight Notice from the city for.”
“It is a great opportunity for volunteers to come together and give back to the aging and disabled community in Junction City or in Geary County,” said Nichole Mader, executive director United Way of Junction City-Geary County. “They can do basic yard work — raking leaves, pulling weeds, trimming — just really cleaning up. By all means, we are not professional landscapers. We can't go in and repaint a house. We would love to be able to, we can't repaint a house so this has to be basic yard maintenance.”
Tasks could include, but are not limited to, picking weeds out of flower gardens, picking up tree branches, laying down mulch and if volunteers are comfortable on a ladder, cleaning out gutters.
“That is one of the services we provide however, it's not mandatory for every person,” Mader said. “Because, you take somebody like myself, I'm terrified of heights. You get me on a step stool that's a foot high and I'm like hyperventilating. So, I'm not expecting everyone to jump on ladders and clean gutters. If they're able and safely can and have the equipment to do it, they're welcome to clean out gutters.”
Participants having the work done are asked to provide a list of work to Mader when signing up so she can arrange the volunteers and the necessary equipment needed. With that, volunteers are asked to bring any equipment they might have as a limited supply of rakes, twine and clippers are available.
“We provide some equipment, we have rakes, we also have hedge trimmers and a few other things,” Mader said. “We ask that they have a ladder (if cleaning out gutters). Then I know some of them in the past couple years, because the weather has been so wonky, we've still had to mow. So, we've asked people you know hey if you're okay with mowing and you have a mower that you can transport. Let us know we'll assign the houses that need mowing to you. So it really goes according to what they're comfortable with doing and what equipment they have.”
Trash bags will be provided to assist with the cleaning up and a rotation of volunteers will make their way from site to site to replenish trash bags and to provide water if needed.
Mader said people, and groups, who are interested in signing up as a volunteer this year can visit any of the United Way of Junction City-Geary County social media pages, the United Way website, www.unitedwayjcgc.org, or via the event sign up page https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0a4eafa629a4fc1-dayofcaring2 or by contacting the office, 785-238-2117.
Due to the COVID situation, Mader is seeking more groups this year who are able to be around each other. Individuals may signup and be partnered with another, or a small group, but requests social distancing standards be maintained to keep everyone as safe as possible.
“In the past, we would take volunteer groups that have one or two, and we would partner them,” she said. “With COVID restrictions we're not able to do that as much. If they do work with a different group, we do ask that they wear a mask and social distance. Because a lot of the yards in Junction City are fairly large, if one person is working in the backyard (while) the other person is working in the front yard they’ll still be able to social distance. Plus it's outside where it's beautiful. So, we can still do Day of Caring. We just might have to tweak it a little. Our hope is to still have a successful Day of Caring.”
Mader said the event is perfect for families, small groups who already observe the social distancing perimeters like church groups and the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts troops, along with groups of Geary County Schools USD 475 students looking to complete service hours.
“We are still encouraging anyone and everyone, we're just asking that they take precaution,” she said. “They take the necessary precautions to ensure everyone's safe. And the other thing is in the past, we would have one person go up and knock on the door to let the homeowner know that they were there to volunteer. Because population that we're working with is on the high risk side, we ask the volunteers to not go up and knock on the door. We ask them to not break that barrier. So if they go up and you know they knock, but do not open the door, and just say we're with United Way. And we'll also talk that over with the homeowners as well so that they know to one, look out for them but to also know that we're asking them to please stay in their home for their safety.”
On the day of the event, volunteers will receive their tasks via provided contact information — email, text message or phone — between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Work will start at 8 a.m. until complete.
Volunteers will also be given a ticket or voucher for lunch that is being provided by Open Door, 136 W 3rd St.
“Last year we had our chili cook off with the Open Door,” Mader said. “They are doing that again. And one of the things that they have offered is for the volunteers, those that are signing up to be a volunteer for Day of Caring, can go down and get a free bowl of chili … as a way of saying thank you for their time.”
Mader requests volunteers sign up by Oct. 15 to ensure all tasks get completed.
“However, if it's a last minute thing because they did have something planned and then that changed and now they're free — we'll still take you,” she said. “We will still happily take you.”
Get work done
Flyers have been sent out through the Senior Citizens Center through the Meals on Wheels program and a few other ways Mader said. If you did not know about the annual event and are in need of assistance, Mader said there is still time to sign up.
“If a senior or differently abled bodied person wants to sign up they can contact our office,” she said. “Call us at 785-238-2117, and let us know that they want to sign up for Day of Caring.”
Those requesting help will need to give Mader their address, a good contact number and the work being requested. Unfortunately, the tasks will be limited to yard work as the teams will not be able to do any painting or building maintenance like replacing a door or fixing screening material on windows.
“We also need to know whether they rent or own,” she said. “That is kind of important, hasn't been in the past, it is now. And that's so that if there are any branches close to electrical wires. We have to be able to notify the homeowner. And that's really just a safety issue. Because then, they have to have people come out and take care of those. So, it's not a, 'Oh, you rent your house, we can't do it.' No, we still will very much provide services, it's just in those situations, we need to be able to know who to notify.”
Mader said they will also need to tell her where the city picks up trash at the residence too. The volunteers will place all trash bags in the normal spot so occupants do not have to worry about moving them later.
The city of Junction City has partnered with the United Way of Junction City-Geary County when it comes to hauling the trash off.
“This is the amazing part,” Mader said. “Because this is a United Way program … all of the houses that are signed up, we send those addresses to the city and to our contacts there. So, even if we have 20 bags of leaves out there and yard waste, they come out, it's no cost to the homeowner — it is free of charge. So, that would not be possible without our amazing partnership with the city. So we are so appreciative of that. And they're really amazing. They will say, ‘Okay, what houses.' And because we place the bags where they typically have their trash picked up, then they already know where they're at. Again, it's no cost to the homeowner, it's no cost to anyone. It's just something the city does to show they care and they care about the program.”
Mader said this event, like many other United Way events, would not be possible without the great partners involved like Cox Communications who gave a grant to fix and or replace “well-loved” equipment, Open Door, City of Junction City and a long list of other community partners and the countless volunteers.