Serving in a big way: Nearly 400 volunteers make ‘Big Day of Serving’ a success

The Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Team organized Saturday's "Big Day of Serving," which saw nearly 400 volunteers complete a wide range of projects across Manistee County. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

The Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Team organized Saturday’s “Big Day of Serving,” which saw nearly 400 volunteers complete a wide range of projects across Manistee County. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

MANISTEE COUNTY — Even before a brush was dipped in paint or a rake could hit the ground, it was abundantly clear: Saturday was going to be special.

Bright and early, Manistee’s Armory Youth Project parking lot was packed to capacity and then some, as nearly 400 volunteers convened before setting out for their Big Day of Serving.

“When you pulled into the parking lot this morning and saw it overflowing, it really gave you an indication of what the day was going to be like,” said Chuck May of Onekama. “Definitely a ‘Wow’ moment for me, it really was.”

And in waves, they set out serve, leaving no corner of Manistee County untouched.

“It really was one of the best feelings to see everyone head out to their projects this morning,” said Robert Carpenter, executive director of the Armory Youth Project. “All at once, they set out to go make a difference. It was pretty incredible.”

Carptenter is a member of this year’s Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce leadership team, the organizers of the inaugural Big Day of Serving event.

The team made a call to the community, and the community responded in a big way as individuals, businesses, organizations and groups — spanning all ages and walks of life — came ready and willing to complete nearly 65 projects across the county that ranged from painting, cleaning, raking, constructing and more.

Volunteers helped improve almost every public park, place and beach within the city limits and many beyond, while also completing nearly 30 projects at the personal homes of Manistee County seniors and veterans.

“This project is being seen by a lot of people, and I’ve already heard story after story about how wonderful this event was,” May said, “both for the volunteers and for the ones they helped.”

The devotion of a day’s worth of time will last weeks, months or even years through many of the projects that were completed on Saturday. But Carpenter points out the benefit of this team effort doesn’t stop there.

“The biggest thing about this is unifying the community,” he said. “Volunteers are meeting and working together with people they probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

“This opportunity brings a lot of people together. … And that’s what this is really all about.”

He added that due to Saturday’s overwhelming success, the community can expect more Big Days of Serving to come.

“This really blew our expectations out of the water,” he said. “Some groups do a lake jump, some do an auction, but we want to see this be our tradition of service and fundraising,” he said. “One of the things we really wanted to encourage too is ‘don’t make this a one-day thing.’ Stay connected with what you worked on today, especially if it was with a senior at their home.

“We heard a lot of positive feedback from those sites, and how huge it was for them just to be able to visit with people.”

May believes Saturday was the start of a very special tradition.

 

“The more people see what this project is really about, the bigger it will become,” he said. “I guarantee this will go forward, not backward. If we keep this up, it’s going to impact the community in a very positive way.

“Today we set an an excellent foundation.”

Each year, the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program teams together local leaders for a nine-month enrollment dedicated to the development of leadership skills through education, awareness and networking relationships.

During the course of that time frame, the group meets for eight full-day sessions designed to showcase many areas of the local community and provide opportunities to meet current community leaders, identify trends, challenges and issues facing the Manistee County area with the goal of becoming future community leaders who anticipate change and act decisively.

Another big part of the leadership program is the group’s community project.

The current class — the third annual team for Manistee’s chamber — listened to six pitches for community projects in September and ultimately selected the Big Day of Serving, pitched by their own team member, Carpenter.

This year’s leadership team consists of Carpenter; Gabrielle Werth (Edward Jones); Andrew Gentile (Little River Casino Resort); David Walsh (Packaging Corporation of America); Roger Vasquez (Republic Services); Kris Ivester (West Shore Community College); Katie Revolt (West Shore Bank); Michael McCann (City of Manistee); Holly Karlsen (Next Generation Learning Center); Lindsay Hoeflinger (Manistee United Methodist Church); Jacqueline Harms (Packaging Corporation of America); Brooke McIsaac (Manistee Intermediate School District); and Alex Callaway (Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital).

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

2 comments on “Serving in a big way: Nearly 400 volunteers make ‘Big Day of Serving’ a success

  1. avatarGpatulski

    What a fluffy story!!!! Maybe next year someone could cut the 2-3 foot high grass and weeds along US 31 through the City. Now wouldn’t THAT be special??? It could make headlines on the front page!!!! Thanks for the good laugh.

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