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Published: Friday, February 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Snow can't freeze volunteer spirit

  • Kaitlyn Anderson (right), a Kamiak High School senior, and another Youth United teen volunteer present a disaster preparedness kit to Jeanette Runnels...

    Photo courtesy of Neil Parekh, United Way of Snoho

    Kaitlyn Anderson (right), a Kamiak High School senior, and another Youth United teen volunteer present a disaster preparedness kit to Jeanette Runnels, 86, a Catholic Community Services home care client in Everett, during a day of service Saturday.

In a high-tech spin on an age-old activity -- helping people -- a few volunteers took to Twitter.
"Due to snow, MLK 'day on' event was moved to today," one helper tweeted. "Doing community service IM AN ANGEL," another tweet said.
Those online comments don't tell the whole story of Saturday's efforts.
Organized as the MLK Day of Service, volunteer projects that had been planned for the Jan. 16 holiday were scuttled by a snowstorm. Wintry weather ended up closing schools all that week.
Despite the change, more than 200 student and adult volunteers juggled schedules and showed up Saturday at sites in Everett, Marysville, Mukilteo and Stanwood.
Following kickoff events, 181 high school students and 36 adults spent several hours Saturday at the homes of seniors and people with disabilities. They washed windows and dishes, cleaned bathrooms and floors. Outside, they mowed lawns, pulled weeds and trimmed bushes.
In Snohomish County, the MLK Day of Service is a partnership of United Way of Snohomish County, the YMCA of Snohomish County, Catholic Community Services and Senior Corps-RSVP. Saturday's lunches were provided by the Snohomish County branch of the NAACP.
Kaitlyn Anderson, a Kamiak High School senior, spent Saturday with several teen volunteers at the Everett home of Jeanette Runnels, who is 86.
She was all set to volunteer on the King holiday. "We wanted to do it, but it was snowing. I'm glad they rescheduled for sure," said Anderson, 17, who volunteers with United Way's Youth United program.
"I got to see the results of my volunteer work first-hand. It feels more personal, one-on-one," she said.
The teens did hours of household chores for Runnels, who lives independently in an older home. "It was a lot of basic things she couldn't do anymore. Washing windows was a big one," Anderson said.
"I can't wash my windows anymore," said Runnels, a home care client with Catholic Community Services. "They washed all my windows inside and out, vacuumed, went in my bathroom and cleaned my shower walls, dusted -- everything."
The day began at four area sites, the Y's branches in Everett, Marysville and Mukilteo and the Stanwood Community & Senior Center. Before going out for service projects, teens wrote letters to men and women serving in the military, and Valentine's Day cards to seniors. They also assembled disaster preparedness kits for people they later visited. Neil Parekh, a United Way spokesman, said the kits were paid for by a Volunteer Centers of Washington/Volunteer Generation Fund grant.
It didn't happen on time in Snohomish County, but this year was the third annual national MLK Day of Service. Part of United We Serve, it's an initiative of the White House and the Corporation for National & Community Service. Locally, it's an inter-generational celebration of the mission of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This was Anderson's second year as a Day of Service volunteer. Last year, she helped a woman accomplish "a serious kitchen cleanup."
"She had stuff in her freezer from the 1990s. I feel like we really helped her," the teen said.
Anderson, who has applied to eight colleges, plans to study engineering. She said that volunteering "is something worth making time for."
"If you care about others, you might as well share it," Anderson said.
Along with students from Kamiak, teens from Archbishop Murphy, Bothell, Edmonds-Woodway, Everett, Glacier Peak, Henry M. Jackson, Lake Stevens, Lakewood, Mariner, Marysville Getchell, Meadowdale, Sequoia, Snohomish and Stanwood high schools joined in the effort.
In our quick-communication era of Twitter and tweets, Runnels simply said she appreciates the volunteers.
"It really helped me. When you're on your own, it's a lot of work," she said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460,
Story tags » ElderlyVolunteerHolidays

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