By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Hundreds of volunteers turned out for a good breakfast early Thursday morning, fuel they would need as they took on work projects around Stillwater as part of the United Way Day of Caring.
Stillwater United Way Executive Director Sheri Carter said 440 volunteers representing 32 entities took part this year.
“It’s by far the largest (group) we’ve ever had,” she said.
At the Stillwater Lodge, located at 12th Avenue and Duck Street, members of the Payne County Democrats sealed wooden beams on a porch, repaired a ceremonial bridge and pruned trees.
Mike Staubus, a volunteer, said the area is one of Stillwater’s “neat, little corners.” The lodge is home to the Girl Scouts.
“It’s important that all of us, the whole community, get together and do certain projects that organizations don’t have the money to do and the manpower to do,” Staubus said. “Mainly, they run out of money. So, getting together and providing a labor force makes it a project that’s doable.”
He said it was fun to attend breakfast earlier in the morning knowing that everyone had the same idea in mind — to help others.
At the Mission of Hope, the grass around a children’s playground was being tended to by representatives of Devon Energy.
“Devon has made Stillwater our newest home and it’s important to us to give back to the communities where we live, work and play,” said Christina Rehkop, supervisor of community relations for Devon Energy. “It’s one of our core values, so this just made sense for us to partner with the United Way, do something great for the community, get our employees involved and make improvements.”
She said it also serves as a team building effort and ensures that the city continues to grow.
“Devon believes that a strong community is really only as strong as the overall health of the community, which includes social service, civic, business and such,” she said.
“So, in order to keep this community thriving so people want to come here and work here, it’s important to make sure our social services are healthy and helping as many people as possible.”
At Roxy Webber Apartments, volunteers with the Oklahoma State University Foundation painted walls. One of the volunteers, Matt Morgan, said it’s all about community.
“If you think about the United Way giving back to the community and Payne County, as a whole, the foundation really wants the group to thrive,” he said. “We have the interests of the community as a priority.”
Executive Director of the Stillwater Housing Authority Glenn Redding said he is grateful for the help.
“It’s wonderful to get it done because, to be honest right now, the federal government is cutting back, so to get this labor in here for a day and get it all done in one day’s time period, it’s wonderful for us,” he said.
In his nearly three decades in Stillwater, he has seen the community always be helpful, he said.
“It hasn’t lost a smidgen of that for the last 29 years,” Redding said.
Stillwater YMCA Executive Director Dan Carman said this event is “extremely important.”
“We get a 1,000 people a day through the Y and multiply that, sometimes on the weekends with basketball games, swim meets or special events, we’ll get 2,000 people and this place takes a beating,” he said.
The Day of Caring allows for a fresh coat of paint and maintenance.
“With the Day of Caring, it saves us money, it makes us look better and makes us better for the community and its members, so it’s a super day for us,” he said.
Now in its 18th year, Carter said she sees the event continuing to grow.
“Things went so well,” she said. “Folks worked so hard and had fun while they were doing it. We got super lucky with great weather.”
Groups were continuing their volunteering as of 3 p.m. Thursday; some were expected to continue into the evening. Carter said the turnout and support was a good indicator of how the agency will fare with raising its $875,000 goal this year. However, Carter said it spoke of something bigger, too.
“I think it speaks well of our community as a whole that we have that many businesses participating and that encourage their employees to go out on work time and do some good,” Carter said.