‘Day of Caring’ volunteers build gardens for Stilly Senior Center

SMOKEY POINT — The Stillaguamish Senior Center and its residential apartments were bustling with activity Sept. 18, as 40 volunteers from Kimberly Clark in Everett grabbed an assortment of building and cleaning tools to take part in the Snohomish County United Way’s “Day of Caring.”

This year’s Day of Caring was the result of a collaboration, not just between the Stilly Senior Center and Kimberly Clark, but also between AmeriCorps and the Washington State University Extension Office. Adele Erbeck, service coordinator for the Stillaguamish Senior Apartments, explained that the idea for this year’s Day of Caring project came from senior residents requesting an on-site vegetable garden.

“This garden will have a really nice raised bed to make it easier for our residents in wheelchairs and walkers, so that nobody will have to bend down,” Erbeck said. “This helps reduce food costs for the seniors by letting them grow their own groceries.”

Erbeck credited Minerva Conley, with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, with helping write a grant application to the WSU Extension Office that yielded $1,000 in funds for the four raised garden beds, constructed on recently exposed land cleared for utility improvements. Conley will return to the site to help provide gardening training once a month for the senior residents as part of the WSU Extension Office’s “Growing Your Own Groceries” class.

“The grant covered the cost of the supplies, including the wood, as well as the water system and the delivery fee for the soil, supplied by Cedar Grove Composting, with a little left over,” Conley said. “This program is bigger than just here. WSU goes out into communities to spread this class and its knowledge that much further. We hope that a lot of these gardens will wind up supplying their area food banks. Here, we hope to get more seniors involved gardening. It builds both community spirit and nutrition.”

Leslie Credgington was the volunteer leader of this project for AmeriCorps, and this was the Arlington native’s first such project. While a number of Kimberly Clark volunteers conducted weeding and brush-clearing throughout the Stillaguamish Senior Apartments grounds, Credgington supervised the remaining Kimberly Clark volunteers in their assembly of the raised garden beds, complete with beds of fill dirt covered by vegetable garden mix soil.

“They’ll probably start planting within the next week or two,” Credgington said. “Planting this late, it’ll be crops that they can harvest in the spring. For my first project, this was quite an undertaking. We take on community action projects to get us out and involved in the communities, by solving problems or providing services. I had to get together a crew of volunteers, delegate responsibilities and set a timeline. I’m grateful for this opportunity to get to know my neighbors. I’ve met really great people who want to help out.”

Troy Woodard served as the Day of Caring project coordinator for his fellow Kimberly Clark employees. He cited this year’s Day of Caring as part of a 60-year tradition of partnership between the United Way and Kimberly Clark, dating back to when it was still Scott paper. Because Kimberly Clark tries to help out different groups throughout the community with each project, in order to foster stronger connections with the community as a whole, this was Woodard’s first visit to the Stillaguamish Senior Center and its apartments, and he came away impressed.

“This is a huge facility that conducts a variety of events that help out a lot of people,” Woodard said. “We’re happy to help support any organization that does the most that it can with the limited resources that it has.”

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