Jac West Kennebec Journal photo by Abigail Austin

Helping his community is something Winthrop High School sophomore Jac West has been doing since becoming a Boy Scout.

“It feels good to give back to our community,” said West.

Early on, he cleaned campsites at Camp Bomazeen, a Boy Scout camp in Belgrade, and later taught young Scouts skills like swimming, computer science, welding and plumbing.

More recently, as he attained his Eagle Scout ranking, he refurbished the dugouts at Maxwell Field at the Winthrop Grade School as part of his Eagle project. West is part of the Boy Scout Troop 622 in Manchester.

Sweeping the parking area at the American Legion Post 40 as part of the Day of Caring was something West took seriously, even though the wind off Maranacook Lake blew the sand into his eyes and down his neck.

It wasn’t about the elements — it was about caring.

Over the last several weeks — and also in the fall — Kennebec Valley students left their classrooms and ventured into their communities to spend a day lending a hand.

“Our hope is that the Day of Caring will spark desire in the students to give back to the place they live in,” said Courtney Yeager, director of resource development and marketing for the United Way of Kennebec Valley. “We want to inspire them at a young age.”

Now in its 19th year, United Way of Kennebec Valley started the program at Cony High School as an experiment. Now 5,200 students in 17 schools in the region participate, including four elementary schools.

Madisyn Oberg Kennebec Journal photo by Abigail Austin

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun at the same time to be doing this work with friends,” said Winthrop High School sophomore Madisyn Oberg, who was also tasked with sweeping the Winthrop Legion’s parking lot.

A regular volunteer for the Kennebec Valley Humane Society, she has plenty of experience getting a little dirty helping a cause dear to her heart — helping animals.

Across the street from the Legion, Abbie Ross, also a sophomore, collected debris from the Winthrop Beach. This was her third year participating in the Day of Caring.

“I’m glad we’re helping out community, where people spend time within the community,” Ross said.

In her spare time, she teaches children how to ice skate so they can participate in Maranacook Youth Hockey. Ross also helps out with the youth field hockey and volunteers with the fire department.

Yeager said that other United Way organizations have similar programs, but “ours is unique that we strictly do it in school.”

“Schools can organize their own projects,” she said. “They get to choose what works best for their communities.”

Richmond and Winthrop schools work most of the day and have a lunch as part of the United Way program.

“Businesses are very passionate about this project,” Yeager said, explaining that when the United Way solicits for its 51 funds, fundraising for the Day of Caring is done separately.

About 20 local business sponsor the Day of Caring, either financially or by providing assistance — like tools — so schools have the equipment they need.

Richmond Middle School and High School, Yeager said, goes to great lengths to partner with local businesses outside the United way for additional tools.

While Winthrop students braced the wind Wednesday, Richmond students squinted through raindrops on May 17.

Teeghan Gilpatric, right, chips yellow paint from the curb while David Serson sweeps during the school’s annual Day of Caring on May 17. Darius Goulette stands in the background. The students are seventh graders at Richmond Middle School. Kennebec Journal photo by Abigail Austin

At the school, groups of middle-schoolers were spread out across the facility. As they laughed with their friends, they worked in earnest scraping paint, landscaping gardens, sweeping and more. Richmond’s high school students went out into the community to work at places like the fire and police stations.

“This is awesome,” said eighth-grader Addison Smith. “It gives us a chance to care about others.”

Smith and fellow eighth-graders Jayden Brillant and Alivia Beckim, were scraping picnic tables, and, if the rain didn’t come down too hard, they would paint them.

Then came a screech — and a lot of laughter. One student discovered a mouse in the shrubbery when he pulled the trim off the garden, a large, wooden beam that also protected an assortment of insects.

Inside, the eighth grade girls who were assigned to paint the boys’ restroom could have done without the oversized booger behind the door.

“We signed up for the activity we’d most like to do,” said eighth grader Brianna Mackie, who said she likes the physical work of painting, and each year paints her bedroom.

“I like to painting,” she said, “but not the boy’s room.”

But it needs to be done she acknowledged, and showing care isn’t necessarily pretty.


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