Jackie Burgess works to clear blackberry bushes from the Mill Creek YMCA Saturday morning during the 3rd annual Day of Hope on May 20, 2017. Sponsored by Gold Creek Community Church, the two-day event drew nearly 1300 volunteers. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Volunteers dove into a variety of projects on Day of Hope

MILL CREEK — A warm and sunny weekend was perfect for working outside.

About 1,500 people were well positioned for that on the third annual Day of Hope on May 20, an event in which volunteers fan out across Snohomish County communities to give back.

During the first Day of Hope in 2015 there were about 500 volunteers who worked on 30 projects countywide, said Cheryl Scheffer, the director of the Hope Creek Charitable Foundation, which organizes the event. In 2016, the count of volunteers and projects doubled.

This year, about 1,500 people came out to work over two days on 88 community projects, from Everett to Bothell.

A kick-off rally took place at Gold Creek Community Church in Mill Creek. The church is one of the largest sponsors of the event, Scheffer said, but the volunteers were drawn from many other groups, from schools, scout troops and others.

“All sorts of community people are helping, not just those attending” the church, she said.

The projects ran the gamut from landscaping at schools and community centers, to picking up litter, to smaller repairs or rehabilitation projects at private homes.

At the Mill Creek Family YMCA, a group of five students from Glacier Peak High School were cutting back blackberries and other sticker bushes from the back lawn, where the Y will run summer camp activities for about 75 kids.

“It’s close to home and we both go to the Y,” said junior Sydney Bridewell, who was working alongside her classmate Kayla Pitts.

Both girls are in the school’s National Honor Society and Key Club, and a number of students got involved in volunteer activities this year, Bridewell said.

At Penny Creek Elementary School, a larger group of parents and kids were helping beautify the school grounds.

Jessica Alinen and her daughter MariElena, 2, were getting ready to get into the dirt.

“She’s going to be helping with some weeding, hopefully,” Alinen said, although MariElena wanted to lead her mom on a chase across the parking lot first.

Britain Wilson, who like Alinen is a Gold Creek member, said this was the first time she’d done this kind of volunteer labor.

“Just in my back yard, not with any community organization. But I think it’s needed,” Wilson said.

Wilson and her husband brought their two preschoolers out, and said having activities where they could include the little ones was part of the appeal of the project, if only so the parents could help keep the kids occupied while they were working.

“We’re rotating taking turns at the playground,” Wilson said.

At Little Cedars Elementary in Snohomish several people used powered weed cutters and trimmers on the landscaping, while about seven girls from Girl Scout Troop 43614 were pulling weeds and cleaning up other planted areas.

“My husband does (Day of Hope) every year but we thought that we would do it as a troop this year,” said troop co-leader Shanna Blatnik.

Blatnik’s daughter, Alyssa, 12, was also doing her first volunteer work. “Yard work is kind of fun, because you get to see you made a difference,” she said.

At Merrie Miller’s house in the Lowell neighborhood of Everett, five people came over to repaint and stain the 52-foot wheelchair ramp used by her son Lukas.

Lukas, 32, lives with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Before the ramp was installed in 2008 — itself a donation from the Master Builders’ Rampathon initiative — she had to help him up the front steps, and once needed a firefighter to carry him in.

She tried to repaint it once about six years ago, but it took a month due to her work schedule, Lukas’ needs, and the weather.

“This is my lifeline,” she said. “This is how my son gets in and out of the house. This is how the EMTs get in when he has seizures that I can’t stop.”

Bryan Gerrish, one of the painters who attends Gold Creek, said it’s getting more difficult for people to be compassionate with their neighbors.

“There’s something that’s lost that’s desperately needed in our communities, both locally and abroad,” he said.

“I like to say I can’t buy my happiness, so I like to give it away,” Gerrish said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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