by TaLeiza Calloway
Scott Lee was glad the weather wasn’t too hot while he raked and bagged leaves from a trail on the grounds of St. Benedict’s Monastery. He and his colleagues tackled the outdoor work Oct. 5 in temperatures reported at 45 degrees with wind speeds up to 33 mph. All bundled up and worked hard.
The group of volunteers was among a total of 23 who stepped up to help out the monastery during United Way of Central Minnesota’s Week of Action this year. The week, held Oct. 1- 6 this year, is an annual event designed to bring people together to volunteer on community projects.
The call for 700 volunteers was made to lend a hand with more than 60 different projects. The week is intended to create positive changes in communities through the volunteer efforts of local residents, according to United Way.
“It’s nice,” Verna Arnold said. “It gets us out of the office and we get to (help).”
Arnold and Lee work for UBS, a financial services company in Waite Park. Staff from UBS participated in United Way’s Day of Action last year delivering hats and mittens, Tracy Meyer said. Meyer volunteered for both years.
In addition to the fall cleaning and gardening, volunteers assisted with data entry and archiving. Specifically, they created an index from newspaper articles the monastery had on file.
Sister Philip Zimmer, OSB, was happy to have the volunteers. Last year, the event was one day versus one week. She said she often found herself trying to keep an active schedule of activities for the volunteers to do each day. While the group Lee and Arnold worked in cleaned up one of several trails on the monastery grounds, another group did work in the cemetery earlier in the week. More than 10 large trash bags were filled Oct. 5.
Sister Jean Schwartz, OSB, the volunteer coordinator for the monastery, said eight people signed up for the event last year. The increase of 15 made a difference. One of the most positive aspects of the week was learning about the volunteers, where they come from and introducing them to the monastery.
After the volunteers finished their work, the sisters invited them in for cookies, coffee and juice. As they walked through the gathering place, questions about the photos on the walls leading to the dining and meeting area popped up. Before they left, they even asked to see where the sisters gather to pray throughout the day. All were eager to learn more about the monastery and its history.
“It’s a great experience,” Schwartz said of the interaction. “These people have never been here before and now they’re interested. That exposure is key.”
The monastery is grateful for the volunteers who help them throughout the year. They contribute a lot of time and include students from the College of St. Benedict. On average, the monastery sees 80 volunteers who log between 500 and 600 volunteer hours per month.
United Way’s Week of Action also attracted volunteer support for Kennedy KIDSTOP in St. Joseph. The after-school program through the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota had a volunteer assist with bingo games.