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Day of Caring: Century Middle School provides community service

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These students tidied up the yard around the Park Rapids Police Department building. (Submitted photo)2 / 3
Middle schoolers helped with both individual and community outdoors service projects. (Submitted photo)3 / 3

Armed with rakes, trash bags and oodles of energy, Century Middle School students and staff tackled outdoor service projects Friday morning.

They spent two hours assisting with spring clean-up at city parks, the library, city hall, Camp Wilderness, resorts, the Heritage campus and others.

Twenty-three individuals, organizations or businesses requested help, according to Julie Cook, a sixth-grade teacher and coordinator of the "Day of Caring Community Service Activity."

The goal was to help the community and individuals, especially the elderly or disabled, she said.

Middle School Principal Shawn Andress said, "I was fortunate to be with 15 fifth through eighth graders at the police department. We cleaned the woods north of the building and raked. On the way back to the building, a couple of the students saw an elderly gentleman seated on a mobility walker, attempting to rake his yard with a child-sized rake. They excitedly asked if they could stop and help him. He was very thankful and repeatedly thanked the kids. He said without the kids help, it would have taken him a week or more to rake the yard. The kids finished it in 20 minutes."

Earlier this year, Cook came across an education blog that shared a recent "Day of Caring Community Service Activity." She discovered that similar projects were being done in neighboring towns and decided it would be a great opportunity for Century Middle School students and staff to give back.

"My students loved it," Cook said. "I have only heard great things from students and staff. The weather was perfect, and we helped over 20 people and businesses. The energy when we came was amazing. Students and staff worked together and everyone had fun and felt proud of the hard work they did. I am so thankful for everyone's hard work to make this day a success."

Karen Onstad teaches sixth-grade language arts, reading and social studies. "The Day of Caring was an awesome opportunity for our middle school students," she said. "Most of the sixth-grade students spent the morning at the Boy Scout camp doing various cleanup activities. Andy Kietzman told the kids what they did in a couple of hours would have taken him until July 4 to finish. Hats off to Julie Cook for organizing the whole event on her own. She is amazing!"

Andress ventured to say the Day of Caring will return next spring.

"I had a great time with the kids, getting to know them on a different level," she said. "In reflecting with many staff, the Day of Caring was a hit! The morning allowed our community at Century Middle School to give to the greater community of Park Rapids, and leave a positive mark. As one boy said, "Look! You can see we were here and made it look better.'"