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About 270 participate in Day of Caring in DeKalb

DeKalb – It was pretty easy for Glenn Harris to volunteer in DeKalb.

Harris, who attends Northern Illinois University, searched online for volunteer opportunities in the city and found hundreds of them. He got involved with the Red Cross in DeKalb two weeks ago and Thursday, found himself pulling weeds out of garden beds during Kishwaukee United Way’s annual Day of Caring.

“It’s good to help people,” Harris said. “You never know if what you’re doing is helping, but I’m sure it is.”

Harris was one of about 270 volunteers taking part in Day of Caring, which helps nonprofit agencies and businesses throughout the county with a variety of projects. Each volunteer is assigned to an agency or business by Kishwaukee United Way, and works on projects ranging from cleaning cars to delivering meals to painting stairways.

Harris joined other volunteers assigned to the DeKalb County Community Gardens to help harvest and plant fresh produce near 2500 N. Annie Glidden Road. The organization donates food to local food pantries and farmers markets.

The garden the volunteers worked in Thursday is one of 37 the organization maintains throughout the county. The harvested vegetables will be donated to the DeKalb County Health Department’s Women, Infants, and Children program and Barb’s Food Mart in DeKalb.

WIC is a public nutrition program for low-income women who are pregnant, recently had a baby, or are breastfeeding, and for children up to age 5. Women can sign up for the program when they’re first pregnant and receive food coupons and vouchers.

Having fresh produce from the gardens helps supplement food normally given to children, said Kay Chase, WIC and family case management coordinator for the health department.

“We don’t have funding for our staff to do anything like this,” Chase said.

Jennifer Corbin, who works as a teaching assistant for Founders Elementary School in DeKalb, helped pull weeds from the garden. She participated in Day of Caring in the past by painting the front steps of the Glidden Homestead in DeKalb.

“I personally love gardening, and I wanted to help out the community,” Corbin said.

It was another successful Day of Caring, said Jackie DiNatale, the Kishwaukee United Way’s coordinator of outreach and finance. Day of Caring attracted about 40 youth volunteers, twice last year’s number.

Projects were completed at a fast rate and volunteers were willing to go to other projects that needed more people, she said. Volunteers who stopped by the American Midwest Bank kickoff event in Sycamore were given T-shirts with the slogan Live United. It was about the power of one person giving back, she said.

“If we all band together, [the community] can be a much better place,” DiNatale said.

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