After two-year absence, United Way's Day of Caring makes a comeback in Becker County
More than 2,000 volunteers — the majority of them high school students and staff from Detroit Lakes, Frazee-Vergas and Lake Park-Audubon — came out to rake lawns, bag leaves and clean up litter in roadside ditches on Wednesday, May 11, as the United Way of Becker County's Day of Caring made a comeback after a two-year absence.
DETROIT LAKES — For the first time since 2019, high school students and staff in Detroit Lakes, along with a handful of community volunteers, spent part of their day raking lawns, bagging leaves and clearing trash from roadside ditches on Wednesday, May 11.
It was the 21st annual Day of Caring hosted by the United Way of Becker County. Detroit Lakes High School Principal Joshua Omang, who helped lead this year's event, also participated in the first-ever United Way Day of Caring when he was a student at the local high school himself.
He said in a Thursday interview that the community service event has gotten much more organized since its beginnings, when there was no assigned list of addresses and chores for the students to follow.
"Today, we have a whole system, and people (in other communities) use us as a model for how to do it," Omang said. "It's a great way for our kids to give back and learn lessons about being kind and giving to others."
Omang also noted that the community service event has expanded to include not just Detroit Lakes, but school districts in Frazee-Vergas and Lake Park-Audubon, as well.
Altogether, about 2,000 volunteers from throughout Becker County were scheduled to participate, according to a post on the United Way's Facebook page .
"We had over 800 kids and staff, along with some volunteers from the community," Omang said of the Detroit Lakes effort.
Between noon and 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the volunteer teams serviced 111 sites for the city and private individuals in the community, he added.
"With that many people you can get a lot done in three hours," Omang said, adding that some of the people whose lawns they worked on had been long-term participants in the Day of Caring, and some baked cookies for the kids and served them lemonade.
"It's a huge tradition with some of our homeowners," he said.
Omang explained that the two-year absence of the event was mainly due to COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions.
"A large part of this year's event was that the only kids who had actually done the Day of Caring before were our seniors," he added. "Part of our morning was spent in small groups, learning about the history of it, why we're doing it, and how it's done."
The rest of the morning was spent engaging in fun activities like completing an inflatable obstacle course (courtesy of the Minnesota National Guard), a bean bag tournament, Frisbee golf at the City Park, and creating a Day of Caring mural.
"Then we had our assembly, ate lunch, and headed out to the sites," he added. "It was a really good day."