United Way musters volunteers for Days of Caring

Diane Rogers and Linden Kimbrough are used to doing the work themselves. For years, the women have planted, weeded and watered a garden just south of Everett’s old train station on Bond Street.

On Friday, there were plenty of helping hands, thanks to volunteers with United Way of Snohomish County’s annual Days of Caring effort.

It was Rogers, more than 15 years ago, who founded Friends of the Everett Train Station. At the time, she was a member of the Everett Theatre Society, which worked to restore the Historic Everett Theatre.

With memories of a childhood spent on the Everett waterfront, where her father had worked for the American Tugboat Co., Rogers expanded her civic involvement to what was once a muddy patch of land. With Judy Morrison, another theater group member, Rogers applied for a $5,000 federal grant. They got the grant and started gardening.

Today, the skinny pocket park on Burlington Northern Santa Fe land overlooking the water has a walkway made of pavers, a gazebo built to look like a caboose, and rows of flowers, including a rose bush planted during World War II.

“It was once just weeds and blackberries,” said Rogers, who is retired and lives in Snohomish.

The organization she founded is still called Friends of the Everett Train Station. These days, there aren’t that many friends to help. Rogers and Kimbrough do most of the work, joined sometimes by volunteers from Everett’s Port Gardner Neighborhood Association. Friday was a different story.

The Days of Caring event brought 28 volunteers to the garden, according to Barbara Jones, of United Way of Snohomish County. Most of them came from two companies, Wells Fargo and Philips Healthcare, but also pitching in were neighborhood helpers and others involved in the train station project.

“It’s nice that somebody will take care of it,” said Gary McLean, of Windermere Real Estate, who Friday was painting the gazebo. The red-caboose gazebo was built by Rogers’ late husband, John Noble Jr., and the Carpenters &Millwrights Union Local 562.

McLean’s painting helper was Alicia MacDougall, a business associate at Wells Fargo in downtown Everett. “It gives you a chance to help your community. They’re paying me my regular salary to get out and give back,” said MacDougall, who lives in Everett’s Riverside neighborhood and loves the city’s history.

“It’s a nice break from the office,” said Ron Boyes, a business analyst with Philips Healthcare in Bothell. “We’re weeding, pruning and painting. It’s just a great way to support the community. The wonderful ladies can’t do it all on their own.”

“It’s a team-building event,” said Wells Fargo’s Erika Freitas, who said Days of Caring projects give workers a chance to get to know people from other parts of their businesses.

Drew Davis, a Wells Fargo business relationship manger, sees volunteering as “a way to give back to the community where we do business.”

Volunteers worked on projects Friday and Saturday. This was the 21st year for the local United Way’s Days of Caring event. In 2013, 1,019 volunteers donated more than 5,500 hours, working on projects at 47 nonprofit sites all over Snohomish County.

Friday’s help was much appreciated. Amtrak passengers no longer use the old train station. They travel instead from Everett Station on Smith Avenue. But the building is still in use by railroad employees. Rogers’ Friends of the Everett Train Station is reclaiming the beauty enjoyed by train travelers of the past.

The Great Northern Railway once had a greenhouse in Monroe that provided flowers for dining cars and rail stations. Roses and dahlias in the Bond Street garden are hints of that gracious age.

“This is a huge help. We are so grateful,” Rogers said. “We’ll put in six to eight hours, and it doesn’t even look like we’ve been here.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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