I’ve always said that being good, or doing good things, is contagious. That was proved last Thursday, Kishwaukee United Way’s annual Day of Caring. Volunteers from across the area came in all ages, sizes and backgrounds with one purpose: to help others.
It was hard to go anywhere in DeKalb or Sycamore that day and not see groups of people in white T-shirts printed with “Live United” across their chests painting, washing, stocking shelves, even doing laundry.
The youngest volunteer I met was 5-year-old Jordan Schrader of DeKalb, who helped his mother wash cars for residents at DeKalb Area Retirement Center-Oak Crest. “My husband and I both work for social services,” Antoinette Schrader told me. “We’re teaching him early to give back to the community.”
That was a common theme. According to United Way board member Alyson Short, many families used the day as an excuse to get together. The day was even moved up from September, she said, to allow more families to get involved.
Which is exactly what Frank DiNatale has done the past three years. Like many others, he and his teenage daughters – Madeline, 15, and Jackie, 13 – went to multiple sites throughout the morning. When they finished one project, they moved on to another. He said he likes seeing his children make their own contributions to the community where they live.
Another volunteer told me they signed up as a group through Bill Cho’s United Taekwondo Center in Sycamore. “We are able to do this, and we like to help,” Ann Janecek explained, as she led a group of young people in weeding the rain garden at the DeKalb Area Women’s Center.
“It only takes a few minutes, and it helps a lot of people,” volunteer Tana Knetsch said, after delivering Meals on Wheels.
I ran into that same kind of spirit everywhere I went, that feeling of goodwill, and not just because the Blackhawks had won the night before. “This is a great day of living,” Anna Marie Coveny of the women’s center said.
You could also feel the gratitude of those getting help. Of all the things I saw, the one that may stand out the most was the older gentleman who jokingly told Kayla Simmons he had checked the odometer of his car before he handed her the keys to wash it.
Believe it or not, these are the stories that reporters for community papers really love to cover, not the gloom and doom we are often associated with. In fact, the day before, we eagerly went over who was going to cover what. If we could have, we would have gone to all of the activities scheduled for the day. Unfortunately, there were just too many of them and not enough of us.
I got so caught up myself that when I returned to the newsroom after covering my assigned events, I talked my editor into letting me cover a couple more. It was just that kind of a day.
There are those who dwell on the bad things of the world, always criticizing or pointing out the terrible, evil things they see around them. If that’s how they choose to live their lives, then let them. Myself, I prefer to look on the good things of life. It’s days like last Thursday that bring out the goodness in all of us. I just hope there are more of them. We don’t need one designated day to do good.