Helping neighbors, community members and local organizations isn’t limited to one day.
Wahpeton High School held its second annual Day of Caring Wednesday, Oct. 9. Held eight days after the 12th annual United Way of Richland-Wilkin’s Day of Caring, the school event featured activity in Wahpeton and Breckenridge, Minnesota.
“It was a great day for Wahpeton High School,” Principal Ned Clooten said. “The kids respond to well to this. They have such servant’s hearts and there’s no content more important than teaching the joy of serving.”
Each “Mi Time” class formed a volunteer team. The classes include students from every grade.
“The whole high school is involved today,” teacher Larry Lasch said. “We’ve got kids all over town at the nursing homes, in the schools and more.”
Lasch supervised his students as they painted the multipurpose court in Chahinkapa Park, Wahpeton. Later this year, the court will become an ice rink. The students’ goal was to turn the court from grey to white so the sun wouldn’t melt the ice so easily.
“There’s groups who are painting the shelter, painting the back of John Randall Field. Parks and Rec is really on it. They found us lots of work to do,” Lasch said.
Elly LaHaise, a junior, was one of the court-painting students. The students were having a great time, moving quickly and getting the job done.
“The best part is just getting out of school and just helping out,” LaHaise said.
For many students, Day of Caring marked the first time they volunteered in their community. Daily News visited Kristi Mahrer’s students as they prepared to sell “Dogs for the Dawg Den.”
The Dawg Den is a free store for Wahpeton high school and middle school students in need of food and hygiene items. The hot dog fundraiser was held from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday in the parking lot of St. John’s Catholic Church, Wahpeton.
Prior to serving the hot dogs, students prepared food and created posters. Many agreed that it was good to get out of the classroom, hang out together and do something for their community.
Organizations participating in Day of Caring included Wahpeton Parks and Recreation, Pioneer Senior Cottages, the Humane Society of Richland-Wilkin Counties, Chahinkapa Zoo, Twin Town Villa, Wahpeton Public Schools, the Leach Home, Thrifty Horizons and the Benedictine Living Community.
Clooten spent his day shuttling students to and from volunteering opportunities. It allowed him the opportunity to see many forms of action.
“We were able to create a second in-house food back at Wahpeton Middle School,” Clooten said. “We have one at the high school and now one at the middle school. This event’s also about seeing things like the smiling faces from people. It’s the elderly ladies who have students that can do their yard work.”
Megan Brejcha and Patricia Hudson’s students teamed up for work at Chahinkapa Zoo.
“They were doing everything from planting bushes to clearing out old shrubs and raking leaves. It’s been a lot of groundskeeping work, but it’s also been really fun for them to hang out together,” Brejcha said.
It may seem like socializing, but supporters say events like Day of Caring have long-term benefits.
“Programs that are developed in partnership with youth are more likely to be effective at engaging the population,” youth.gov stated. “Empowering youth to identify and respond to community needs helps them become empathetic, reflective individuals, setting them on a course to potentially continue this important work in their future.”
Meaningful youth engagement, youth.org continued, involves viewing youth as equal partners with adults in the decision-making process. The idea is to form a partnership “with,” not “for,” allowing all voices at the table.
“In this kind of equal partnership, both adults and young people need to be fully engaged, open to change in how things are done and share a unified vision for the partnership,” the organization continued.
One of the best parts of Day of Caring, participants said, is when a project can endure.
“When I drive by, I can see that I did that. It’s something to be proud of,” said Munezero Desire, a junior.
Last year, Desire worked with Jeff Ralph and his classmates at the Bois de Sioux Golf Course before picking up leaves in a Wahpeton neighborhood. This year, Desire was among the students involved in projects at Chahinkapa Park.
Freshman Riley Helgeson and sophomore Hunter Owens were painting a picnic table when Daily News visited the park. Owens agrees with Desire, saying it is nice to be able to have a project to say he was involved in.
“The best part is being able to do this with your friends,” Helgeson said. “You’re not doing it alone.”