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This is a big week for local United Way

It's a busy week for the United Way of Becker County, with not just one, but two major events coming up.

The United Way Celebration of Heroes takes place Thursday at the Holiday Inn Lakeside in Detroit Lakes.

The Celebration of Heroes began in April 2002, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

LuAnn Porter, United Way executive director, said the Celebration also honors two "Everyday Heroes" in the community -- one adult, one youth -- and includes the presentation of the United Way Community Spirit and Bob & Michelle Harris Memorial awards.

These awards all honor various aspects of community service.

For the second year, the celebration will be held in the evening, with a cocktail hour starting at 5 p.m. and the awards ceremony at 6 p.m. There will also be musical entertainment as well as a cash bar and heavy hors d'oeuvres.

"It will be a night of music, food and acknowledgement," said Porter, noting that another of the main purposes of the celebration is "to recognize all the hard work done by the firefighters, police officers, emergency responders, Armed Forces soldiers and veterans in Becker County."

After the Celebration of Heroes is over, the United Way will be gearing up for its annual Day of Caring community service project.

On Wednesday, May 5, approximately 2,200 students, faculty and community volunteers in the Detroit Lakes, Frazee-Vergas and Lake Park-Audubon school districts will go out into their communities and spend the morning completing over 300 service projects.

Most of the projects are designed to help area senior citizens with yardwork, window washing, leaf raking and other outdoor projects that they are no longer able to do for themselves.

Porter said there are 155 projects slated for completion in Detroit Lakes, with another 50 scheduled for Lake Park, Audubon and Cormorant plus another 60 to 70 in the Frazee-Vergas district.

In Detroit Lakes, Porter said, the students, faculty and adult volunteers go out in teams and arrive at their service project sites no later than 11 a.m. The projects are all completed by 1 p.m., and the remainder of the school day is spent enjoying leisure activities back at the high school, Porter said.

"The Salvation Army will be serving lunch (for the Detroit Lakes students)," she added, noting that the local non-profit uses the meal as a means of preparing for disaster assistance situations where they need to serve meals to hundreds of people.

Though the project is sponsored by the United Way, Porter said, "it's student led and student driven."

"It is a special day," she added. "It's not just about getting the work done, it's about the relationships they build (with the seniors). They see some people who are a little older than them, in a different light. They have a sense of having done something good for someone else."

Of course, the reverse is also true, Porter said.

"The seniors are so happy to see them," she said, adding that the students often keep track of those they have helped well after the day has ended -- and vice versa.

For more information about the United Way of Becker County and its programs, call 218-846-7400.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454