Cumberland Times-News

June 5, 2009

Caring, sharing unifies citizens

Tess Hill

CUMBERLAND — Dreary skies and cold rain couldn’t wash the smiles off the Day of Caring and Sharing volunteers’ faces Friday morning.

“This is just a great event and a unique way to spruce up the city for the summer months, and the weather won’t dampen anyone’s spirits,” said Downtown Manager Ed Mullaney. “And this year we have had a record number of flowers donated.”

More than 300 flats of annuals were donated for the Day of Caring and Sharing and more than 500 plants and flowers grown by inmates in the Western Correctional Institution greenhouse were given to officials for the event. Inmates and correctional officers from WCI and North Branch Correctional Institution also participated in cleaning up the city.

“It’s pretty amazing all of the different people who pull together to help beautify our area, and County United Way is great with recruiting labor and volunteers,” Mullaney said. “This is truly a unified community effort.”

Councilman Butch Hendershot said in the first year of the Day of Caring and Sharing, less than 100 volunteers came out to help with approximately 10 projects. This year, more than 600 people signed up to participate in 40 different projects.

One of the teams that helped this year was a group of ladies from Chessie Federal Credit Union.

“We just love our community and downtown; so much effort has been put into cleaning the area up and making it look nice,” said Shirley Riggs. “We (decided to join the Lets Beautify Cumberland! Committee) because we wanted to participate in maintaining the area and keeping it beautiful.”

In its fourth year of participation in the event, the Chessie team was getting dirty as members filled the large downtown planters with mulch and flowers.

“The rain isn’t so bad; we were going to be getting dirty anyway so it didn’t keep us from coming out,” said Sally Mitchell. “We also had made a commitment to be here and wanted to keep that. Plus, we wanted to get involved and do our little bit to help out.”

Harolyn Sherman agreed and said the smallest parts really make a difference.

Also participating in the event was a group from the Western Maryland Central Labor Council AFL-CIO.

“We wanted to give back to the community,” Jim Bestpitch, president of the council, said about why the group decided to participate in the event. “We are lucky that we have good jobs with good benefits; we’re grateful for what we have and want to do a little to help others.”

Bestpitch said the event helps beautify the city as well as bring the community together.

And of course, the Columbia Gas team, corporate sponsors for the event, came out to help with mowing and weed whacking.

“We like to give back to the community and we’re happy to be the corporate sponsor of this event,” said Dave Yates.

Having been involved with the event since its conception, the team has watched the number of volunteers grow each year.

“So many people are involved, and the work done today affects everyone,” said Francis Mouse. “And we all live in the community and we just want to help beautify the area.”

Councilwoman Mary Beth Pirolozzi, executive director of County United Way, said the Columbia Gas team has been wonderful, too, helping with every aspect of the event.

“It’s great to have these guys out in the community where people see they do more than just working on gas lines,” she said. “And they don’t just sponsor the Cumberland Day of Caring and Sharing, but also Frostburg and Oakland. They’re just a great group to work with and have involved with the event.”

After doughnuts downtown at 8 a.m., smaller groups broke off and went to work around town. At noon they reassembled at the Hot Stove Bingo Building on Industrial Boulevard for lunch, door prizes and reports from team supervisors about the work accomplished Friday morning.

Contact Tess Hill at thill@times-news.com.