By Robb Murray
---- — MANKATO — Henry Hanson was more than happy to show the volunteers around the yard.
Vines growing up the garage wall here, overgrown brush there. It all needed to be dealt with. But Hanson, at age 71, says he just doesn't have it in him anymore to go crazy on the yard work at his home on South Second Street.
So the volunteers got to work. They raked up brush and weeds and other random vegetation. They pulled all those vines off the garage. They even fired up a chainsaw and cut through some of the more stubborn growth causing problems in Hanson's backyard.
"Age has gotten the better part of my body," he said. "They do a great job," said Hanson, "and it's beneficial to the community."
The volunteers in Hanson's yard came from South Central College's Center for Business and Industry. They were taking part in the United Way's Day of Action by heading out with a crew from VINE Faith in Action. One of the things VINE has been doing for years is helping seniors with lawn care or odd jobs around the house. And Hanson's yard was on the list when the SCC volunteers took part in the Day of Action.
The Day of Action is a national event. The actual "day of action" is Friday, which is the summer solstice. But many United Way offices spread events and good deeds out over the course of a week. And in Mankato, they've got many businesses that want to take part.
Roughly 170 volunteers from more than 20 businesses are working with the United Way on projects this week for the Day of Action. This year projects are taking place with SMILES, the Salvation Army, MOMS, the American Red Cross, ARC of MN Southwest, Feeding our Communities Partners, Lutheran Social Service and Partners for Affordable Housing, Habitat for Humanity, Open Door Health Center, and the YMCA's Big Brothers and Big Sisters program.
"It's been really fun to work with the businesses and see the excitement that everybody has," said Laura Stevens, marketing and campaign manager for the Greater Mankato Area United Way.
Stevens said they reach out to businesses that are involved in employer-based giving programs and see if they want to participate in the Day of Action. Also, they get requests from businesses and other groups — such as the crew from South Central College and Verizon Wireless — who want to participate.
Terry Meschke, who works at SCC's Faribault campus, said Monday was a perfect day for doing some good.
"Beats sitting in the office," he joked. "And it feels good to help the community."
Meschke said that by heading out as a group to volunteer, everybody wins, including the volunteer troupe from SCC. Last year, he said, they helped during Day of Action at the Red Cross, helping them organize their supplies. It took a while, he said, but they came together to get a job done, and left a stronger unit.
"We've been trying to get our team stronger the last few years," he said, "and these kinds of things help."
Eric Weller of SCC agreed. He called such events a "team building exercise," and said it's also a great chance to help the community as members of the South Central College.