Record turnout for Austin's Day service projects

Record turnout for Austin's Day service projects

CHAMPAIGN — A beautiful Saturday brought record numbers of volunteers to Austin's Day projects.

With more than 225 volunteers showing up, Centennial teacher Jeron Blood said, the day was the best ever for the school's Interact Club, which he sponsors. The goal had been about 150.

A dance marathon Friday set the event into motion, Blood said.

The Austin Cloyd Day of Service is named for a Centennial graduate who died in Virginia Tech shootings in April 2007.

Most previous Austin's Days have been rainy.

"This year, we have an interesting problem: volunteers are tired because it's too hot," said Todd Salen of the Champaign Rotary Club, a major force in the day.

Wearing bright yellow Austin's Day shirts, volunteers helped with a Boneyard Creek cleanup, a car wash at Developmental Services Center and a Jefferson patio project, enjoying the sun and breeze.

The day was pretty good even for the inside workers.

Centennial junior Patrick Gibbons was at the TIMES Center in Champaign, helping prepare lunches for clients there with a half-dozen other Centennial students.

At the moment, they were checking expiration dates.

"This is from 2011," he said, passing a can of Folger's coffee to junior Rebecca Kaefring, who tossed it into a garbage can.

Organizations helped by volunteers had a pleasant surprise.

"It's been a blessing," said TIMES Center cook Sam Denton.

"Usually, we have just two or three volunteers a day. We got the prep work done almost immediately. Then we could have them do tasks that we don't always get to."

Denton said people are very generous with their donations, but it's harder to get workers.

"It's nice to clear the shelves, especially since the growing season is almost on us, and we'll get fresh food," he said.

Senior Avona Greene, a member of Centennial's Interact volunteer group, said the day was fun, as were previous efforts at the Polar Plunge and a jean drive.

Jessy Lugo, a junior, was sorting boxes to have common ingredients, like flour and sugar, close to each other.

Volunteerism "brings our community and culture together," Lugo said.

And it also makes for fast work, Interact sponsor Blood said.

"We had a project with Jefferson (Middle School), building a concrete patio, and we got that done an hour earlier than budgeted," he said.

Seventeen members of the University of Illinois women's soccer team made quick work of beautifying Centennial's courtyard, shortly before they left for a match.

"They were picking up leaves, spreading mulch, picking up garbage. We had a second shift that we didn't need for that, so we sent them out to do the grounds at Centennial," Blood said.

Sophomore Allison Kaefring said the day was fun, though taking care of kittens at the Champaign County Humane Society was tough to beat as a volunteer day.

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