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Twin Ports volunteers dig in for Day of Caring

Volunteers helped with a gardening project at the YWCA Young Mothers Center; made hygiene bags for Safe Haven; and spruced up a playground at the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse.

Two women by garden.
Young Mothers Program Director Natasha Lancour, left, listens as master gardener intern Kathy Johnson talks about where to plant corn and squash on a trellis YWCA Young Mothers Center on Wednesday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — The front lawn at the Young Mother's Center of the YWCA was transformed thanks to the hard work of volunteers.

"We've spent almost four or five hours here, but it felt very short," said volunteer Tyler Erickson, Youth In Action program coordinator for St. Louis County. "It's been a long day, but it went very quickly."

Garden beds.
Nearly built raised beds sit outside the YWCA Young Mothers Center on Wednesday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Erickson was there with a couple members of Youth In Action to dig up and prepare eight garden beds for a vegetable and herb garden for the center.

"It just sounded really fun to me to be outside and garden and help," said Reese Ronquist, a student at Hermantown High School involved with Youth in Action.

"And it's for a good cause," added Lauryn Biondi, a fellow Hermantown student and YIA member.

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The YWCA was just one local nonprofit that received some helping hands during the annual Day of Caring on Wednesday. According to organizer Liz Pawlik with the Head of the Lakes United Way, over 20 projects were completed by approximately 200 community members through the effort.

Two women hug.
Young Mothers Program Director Natasha Lancour, left, hugs volunteer Lauryn Biondi on Wednesday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

"Day of Caring is a beloved community event hosted by Head of the Lakes United Way for nearly 25 years," Pawlik said. "It's dedicated to helping local nonprofits tackle summer projects and provides an opportunity for United Way’s partner workplaces, individuals and groups get involved within their local communities during this special day."

Other projects included a picnic at the Damiano Center; a track pickup along the North Shore Scenic Railroad; sprucing up the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse's outdoor play area; and organizing hygiene items at Safe Haven.

Another goal of the program is to educate volunteers about the work nonprofits do in the community.

"We had a team from Allete Clean Energy assist in assembling hygiene bags for every shelter guest that stays with us," said Jaci Christiansen, community engagement coordinator at Safe Haven. "Multiple members of the team mentioned that they knew who Safe Haven was, had driven or walked past or Resource Center, but didn’t understand the full scope of our services and were grateful to be able to see everything that we provided in the community."

At CASDA in Superior, community engagement coordinator Jill Hinners said another volunteer group from Allete spruced up the yard and playground area, but also talked about the importance of the playground to the survivors who come to stay at the shelter.

"We always intend to create a welcoming environment to help instill a sense of calm for people who have experience trauma, but our ideas are often bigger than the time we have to implement them," Hinners said. "They weeded, planted and pruned alongside CASDA's weekly volunteers and got an amazing amount of work done while they were here."

Although Day of Caring has ended, Pawlik encouraged residents to stay involved throughout the year by visiting the Volunteer Center at the Head of the Lakes United Way website, volunteerduluth.galaxydigital.com.

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Editor's note: Reese Ronquist is the daughter of Neal Ronquist, publisher of the Duluth News Tribune.

This story originally transposed the attributions to quotes from Reese Ronquist and Lauryn Biondi. It was updated at 9:06 p.m. June 27. The News Tribune regrets the error.

Plants in a garden.
Plants grow in a raised bed Wednesday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Related Topics: DULUTHSUPERIOR
Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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