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Published October 15 2010

Volunteers take action: United Way teaches students to lend a hand

At age 78, living alone with a tricky back, Dorothy Lubka could use a little help around the house.

On Thursday afternoon, she got it, in the form of 28 leaf-raking, hedge-trimming, ladder-climbing seventh-graders who stopped by to lend her a hand.

The Fargo Discovery Middle School students were among 1,300-plus volunteers mobilized for the United Way of Cass-Clay’s annual Day of Caring. It’s the largest volunteer outing of the year for the organization.

Participants visited the homes of 447 senior citizens who needed a helping hand with projects around the house.

The event draws “every single type of volunteer you can imagine,” from students to working professionals, said Kristina Hein, marketing and brand manager for United Way of Cass-Clay.

Most commonly, she said, those volunteers help seniors tackle jobs they might have trouble doing themselves – yard work, raking leaves and other labor-intensive preparations for winter.

This is the 19th year the local United Way has held the event. Hein said it’s a popular way for people to contribute beyond the pledge forms that start popping up in office mailboxes this time of year.

“A lot of people say, ‘I enjoy giving, but I want to do something active,’ ” she said. “That’s a type of giving, too.”

Lubka, who has taken part in the program every year since she had back surgery four years ago, said the assistance is welcome.

“There’s so many things I can’t do now,” she said. “I really appreciate getting the help.”

Stacy Warzecha, a seventh-grade geography teacher at Discovery who helped coordinate the students’ participation, said the school does a community service outing each fall. She was on hand Thursday to keep the volunteers on task.

Jacob Dybwad, a 12-year-old Discovery student and the self-appointed spokesman for the students at Lubka’s home, said most of his classmates were enjoying the work.

“It’s actually kind of fun,” said Dybwad, who was hard at work changing lightbulbs. “It’s good to help someone who’s not able to do it themselves.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502