LETTS, Iowa–Because kids learn by doing, United Way of Muscatine has always made it a priority to give them opportunities to help out. Each year, the organization partners with local schools to host Student Days of Caring, where they match children with service projects suitable for their ages and abilities. For the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way held a Student Day of Caring, partnering with Louisa-Muscatine Community School District to put on the Falcon Day of Caring April 21.
On a beautiful Thursday, 251 students, faculty members, and staff from Louisa-Muscatine worked together to complete 29 different service projects. Projects involved outdoor activities, such as completing yard work for older adults; cleaning up area cemeteries (including the Kisor-Eisele and Lettsville cemeteries), church yards, and parks; and washing the Fruitland Volunteer Fire Department’s fire engines. For those who preferred inside work, Falcon Day of Caring volunteers also assisted with some spring cleaning and beautification at the Letts Public Library and the Letts Community Center.
Many hands made light work, and the students got a lot done at each of the sites they visited. While the work may not have felt hard for the students, it had a huge positive effect for all of the recipients. “The students’ work had a tremendous impact on the community,” noted United Way of Muscatine Community Engagement Manager Hilary Henke. “The hours they spent cleaning up city parks, cemeteries, libraries, and community centers will allow residents of those communities to enjoy the fruits of their labor.”
More than just benefitting the community at large, the simple yardwork tasks students performed benefited the homeowners immensely, allowing them to enjoy their properties comfortably as the weather warms. “One of the senior residents of Letts stated that without the help of the L-M volunteers completing yardwork for her, she wouldn’t be able to safely walk in her yard,” Henke shared.
Students gained a lot from the day as well, seeing how volunteering can better the community and themselves. “The students were happy to have a chance to get outside and give back to the communities; they put in a lot of hard work and should be proud of themselves,” Henke observed.
Though each Student Day of Caring has a lot of meaning for both participants and the people and organizations who benefit from it, Henke felt this year’s proved extra special both because it marked a return to full in person volunteering and Henke’s first time working on a United Way project at her alma mater. “As an L-M graduate, it felt fitting that the Falcon Day of Caring was my first event as the community engagement manager at United Way,” she said: “I’m so grateful that students and staff at L-M are committed to giving back to their local communities. It was amazing to see the tremendous impact that can be made on our communities in just a few short hours.”
As schools transition back into working with United Way of Muscatine, Henke expects to see more Student Days of Caring both in the next month and in the next school year. She plans to work with several elementary schools to hold Student Days of Caring this spring, and to partner with schools that have worked with United Way in the past during the 2022-2023 school year.