MARYSVILLE – Nine years ago, Mike and Emily Hutchinson tragically lost their daughter Jenna to SIDS when she was only 10 weeks old.
What followed for the Arlington family was a dark time, where the parents raised in irreligious homes began drinking themselves through their grief and were “super lost.”
Friends one day suggested they visit the Grove Church in Marysville.
“We liked the church, but we didn’t feel connected really until we joined the “I Heart Marysville” campaign six years ago, and that made us members,” Emily said.
“I Heart made such a difference in our lives,” she said. “It was an incredible feeling, and our whole life started to change.”
That connection with others while demonstrating that you “love your city” enough to give back through community service is at the center of the I Heart initiative.
Hundreds joined in four straight days of service projects that wrapped Aug. 4, beneficiaries of which were mainly schools and parks.
A team of volunteers led by the Hutchinsons, which included their daughter Reese, were finishing their last project that Friday, repainting the exterior of Marysville Middle School, re-striping the covered basketball court surface and other improvements.
“Working side by side with someone, you actually get to meet them and know them instead of just saying ‘hi’,” Mike Hutchinson said.
And, he added, “The reaction you get from the community is pretty neat.”
Some teachers were so moved that they stopped by, picked up brushes and pitched in, simply because they saw others taking time out of their day to give back to the schools through hard labor during a hot spell.
In addition to the middle school, I Heart volunteers also repainted the Fantasy Fortress at Cascade Elementary in a smokey brown color and created an eye-catching sign out of wooden cutout letters, repainted the teachers lounge at Kellogg-Marsh Elementary and added improvements at Liberty Elementary. Teams also weeded, trimmed back vegetation and painted trailside fencing at Harborview and Ebey Waterfront parks.
I Heart volunteers completed projects as far north as Stanwood, rehabilitating a restroom in Stanwood Park, and as far south as Everett, serving meals at the men’s and women’s shelters.
At the Tulalip Legacy of Healing, volunteers gave the center a fresh makeover, painting, tending flower beds, pruning trees, landscaping and pressure-washing pavement.
The church had teams responsible to feed and hydrate everyone. Another team took care of children too young to help, providing them with games, activities and visits from special guests like Washington State Patrol Trooper B.S. Hyatt.
Another team, I Heart Go, composed of kids from age 9 to their teens but led by adults, hosted kid block parties at Tulalip Boys and Girls Club and Shoultes Elementary on different days, with music, games prizes, hot dogs and more.