While heading northeast of Gunnison on a recent cool fall morning, Teresa Flicek and other student volunteers were equipped with shovels, pickaxes and rakes — prepared to help clean up trails. Along with clearing rocks and sagebrush, Flicek and her fellow volunteers built trail markers out of the cleared rocks.
“It felt great to know my efforts were a part of a huge project that bettered the Gunnison community,” said Flicek.
Yet, the group was not alone in its work. The trail project was just one of many that took place as part of Western Colorado University’s first-ever Fall Day of Service this past Sunday.
Annie Westbury and Jon Stubblefield were the professional staff members at Western who helped coordinate the event. Westbury explained how the Fall Day of Service came to be.
“A bunch of students last fall came to me and said that they wanted to create some sort of campus culture around service,” said Westbury. “On Martin Luther King Jr. Day last spring, we did ‘A Day On, Not a Day Off,’ and the turnout was unexpected. We found out that there is a need for people wanting to go out in the community and give back. They just don’t know how to get started.”
Westbury, Stubblefield and the group of students chose the organizations that would be helped. Fourteen different nonprofits and causes benefited from the work.
“My heart (was full) when I saw everyone who showed up,” said Westbury. “It was the end of Homecoming weekend and (the students) could pick anything to do on their Sunday afternoon. The fact that over 115 people showed up ready to get their hands dirty and ready to serve our wonderful community, I was definitely teary eyed and very excited that this is something that the students and our community want.”
From trimming branches to picking up trash on the side of the road, and helping sort and fold donated clothing to maintaining trails, Western students completed more than 300 hours of community service.
As Western students Morgan Calerich and Dani Pringle sorted donated clothing at Six Points, they reflected on how they were impacting their community.
“Volunteering is a lot more fun than I initially thought it would be,” said Calerich. “It feels really good that we are helping someone somewhere in the community.”
Along with sorting donated clothing, the volunteers helped pull weeds around the building and sweep and clean the inside of Six Points’ thrift store.
“Six Points specifically said that they do not have a lot of help right now, so it is nice that we were able to lend a hand,” said Pringle.
Six Points is a nonprofit that helps developmentally disabled adults lead more fulfilling lives. The thrift store helps employ some of these adults, and the money made by selling the donations supports programming for the nonprofit.
“This helped me realize what good I am doing for the community, and later in life I plan to continue to volunteer,” said Calerich.
At the Gunnison Whitewater Park, volunteers trimmed branches, cleared pathways and picked up trash so that the banks are more accessible to fishermen and other Gunnison community members.
Students who volunteered at Tenderfoot daycare center sanitized the classrooms, painted cabinets, scrubbed walls and vacuumed the carpet.
Volunteers at the student-run Chipeta Community Garden on Western’s campus planted garlic, mulched flower and vegetable beds, moved old pallets and stained the fence in preparation for winter.
“It was a great opportunity to work in the beautiful fall weather and meet new people,” said Dana Potts, who helped in the garden. “I am already looking forward to volunteering in the spring.”
After the volunteers finished their projects, everyone met back at the IOOF Park downtown for a picnic and a summary of the work accomplished.
“I hope that everyone at Western serves in our community at least once a year within their college experience, said Westbury.
Western plans to organize another day of service this coming winter, focused primarily on indoor volunteer work.
“We live in such a cool place with such a sense of community,” said Westbury. “You really cannot dive into that sense unless you are out there working with some of the nonprofits.”
NONPROFITS, CAUSES THAT BENEFITTED
> Six Points Evaluation and Training
> Señorita Rita’s book nooks
> Cochetopa Farms — horse therapy
> Gunnison Country Food Pantry
> Gunnison Nordic
> Gunnison Valley Mentors
> Gunnison Valley Animal Welfare League
> Mountain Roots
> Western Organics Guild
> Gunnison County Recycling Center
> Tenderfoot daycare
> Gunnison Whitewater Park
> Gunnison Trails
> Young At Heart
-Caitlin Gleason, Special to the Times.