SOUTH HOLLAND | For Diane Hart, Saturday could have been an easygoing day with nice springtime weather at her home in Elkhart, Ind.
Instead, she drove three hour to the south suburbs, where she was put to work outside the Faith, Family, Future Center, 16931 South Park Ave., as part of several projects that took place across the village on Saturday as part of the Big Day of Serving.
The Big Day is an event in which Christian youth groups and other volunteers from across the Midwestern U.S. converge on a community to help improve neighborhoods. This weekend, they chose to come to South Holland.
“We feel the need to go out into the community and show others what it means to live a Christian lifestyle,” she said, adding while her particular church often participates in Big Day events, this is the farthest she has traveled for such an event.
“I get to see different places this way,” Hart said.
She was far from the only teenage or adult volunteer who came from across Michigan, Indiana and Illinois on Saturday to gather at 17 parks and churches across the village to work.
There even was one crew cleaning up debris at the cloverleaf ramp of the Bishop Ford Freeway at 162nd Street. Village spokeswoman Mary Ann Thornton said there were village Emergency Service and Disaster Agency crews on hand to make sure the volunteers were safe from passing traffic.
Another group was gathered in the community garden maintained by the village’s youth commission behind the River Oaks Community Church. Vegetables grown there are sold at area farmer’s markets for fundraising purposes.
It is time to start planting vegetables for this year’s growing season, but the gardens were a mess in that they were covered with weeds, branches and leaves – while also needing new mulch and sod.
As a result, a crew of workers spent the day clearing the garden and preparing it for the zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and greens that will be grown there this year, Thornton said.
Kurt Zufan, of Elkhart, said the actual work wasn’t that difficult.
“We’re farm boys at heart who are used to doing things around the house,” he said. “We don’t have a problem getting our hands dirty.”
Vicky Perkins, 18, South Holland, said she feels a need to give back to her home community, and she was pleased her employer, Starbucks, was among local businesses that supported the Big Day.
Thornton said Starbucks donated a breakfast for the volunteers, while the Christian Ministry Alliance covered the cost of feeding them lunch during a midday break.
She also said Sherwin Williams donated paint used Saturday, while Scott’s Lawn Service donated potting soil and Home Depot stores in Calumet City and Homewood donated mulch and work gloves, along with gift cards the village was able to use to buy other gardening supplies needed.