For Kately, this was a great experience and at the same time, a journey into the past. Kately recalled, "I myself went to Sagamore Hill Elementary School in Fort Worth, and grew up two blocks from there. When I saw that my old school was listed on the Week of Caring program, I immediately registered for the project."
The partnership with Sagamore Hill Elementary School began in 2011 and has resulted in the completion of a number of projects, including installing an educational garden and painting inspirational and academic murals throughout the school. This time, the focus was on working with the children to strengthen educational opportunities at the school, which is frequently short on resources and funds.
Kately, along with 30 other colleagues, worked together to build nearly 120 bookshelves. The volunteers then worked one-on-one with the students to decorate and personalize the shelves so the students could take them home.
"The willingness to learn and the motivation of each child must be fostered on an individual basis,” explained Kately. "While we didn't exactly build race cars with the children, getting their own bookshelf made them just as excited."
Highlights of the projects completed across the region:
Working directly with school children was the focus of numerous projects. At Sagamore Hill Elementary School in Fort Worth, and at Beyond Basics in Detroit, Michigan, the volunteers focused on literacy and art projects with the students.
In projects for Crossroads for Youth and Alternatives for Girls in Metro Detroit, the volunteers had two different tasks. They provided the youth with personal development guidance and contributed to the beautification of the rooms and outdoor facilities.
A number of projects, such as Focus: HOPE and Forgotten Harvest in Detroit, and Community Food Bank and Kids Against Hunger in Fort Worth, and Helping Hand Food Pantry in Hillsdale, New Jersey, volunteers made contributions to provide healthy meals to local families in need.
At Forgotten Harvest, volunteers worked on a farm and harvested 40,000 pounds of sweet corn – more than the weight of 22 smart cars. And during the Kids Against Hunger project, volunteers packed approximately 18,000 meals, which were donated to the local Community Food Bank and an orphanage in Honduras.
Other projects called for employees with a green thumb. Colleagues who volunteered with REAL School Gardens and Harlean Beal Elementary School in Fort Worth and Greening of Detroit, planted, weeded and spread mulch on the flower beds in order to beautify learning gardens and green city areas.
In just a few hours, some areas were almost unrecognizable. In collaboration with the Eight Mile Boulevard Association in Detroit, volunteers came together with the local community to clean-up O’Hair Park, while others helped to paint an 85 foot mural at Detroit’s Phoenix Multicultural Academy in partnership with Urban Neighborhood Initiatives.
During the KaBOOM! project, volunteers built an entire playscape for an apartment complex in Fort Worth. Indoor environments were also transformed at Community Living Center in Metro Detroit and SafeHaven of Tarrant County in Fort Worth, when volunteers brightened residential facilities with a fresh coat of paint. In Mexico, colleagues also helped to beautify local schools with community partner Child Fund Mexico.
The employees in Mississauga, Ontario, continued their partnership with Youth Without Shelter. They built shelves and painted the living quarters, helping to maintain a warm and comfortable space for homeless youth.
Habitat for Humanity volunteers in Michigan helped build a handicapped-accessible house for a woman with limited mobility due to cerebral palsy, while in Argentina and Brazil, volunteers also helped to build homes with community partners Habitat for Humanity of Argentina and TETO Organization in Brazil.
In Fort Mill, North Carolina, the focus was on improving the ecosystem. In collaboration with Clean Air Carolina, the volunteers started an ozone garden at the McDowell Nature Center. The garden is home to bio-indicators, sensitive plants that react to very high ozone concentrations in the air.