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Students serve the community in annual 'Day of Caring'

About 200 students in ninth to 12th grade joined 35 teams to complete 114 projects.

Two students raking.
At their third home of the morning, Wadena-Deer Creek sophomores Bridget Bricker, left, and Gracie Ames, right, rake leaves for a Wadena homeowner on April 27, 2022.
Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal
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WADENA — As one of Wadena-Deer Creek high school’s favorite days of the year, students carried their rakes and serving attitude into the community.

Students flocked Wadena, Deer Creek and Bluffton yards clad in their sweatshirts on the breezy and cool Day of Caring, Wednesday, April 27. About 200 students in ninth to 12th grade joined 35 teams to complete 114 projects.

The day, which includes raking leaves, washing windows, weeding garden beds and other outdoor projects for elderly people, is lead by National Honor Society students. This year’s student leaders were seniors Corra Endres and Summer Pettit. NHS co-advisor Lori Grendahl said the students organize the day, from phone calls to creating the teams.

“I’m just so excited to see everybody just work for our community because it’s just a fun thing to do as a school and to meet new people you usually don’t like hang around and be with different people than you’re usually with,” Endres said.

A student raking a yard.
Wadena-Deer Creek students, including Genevieve Pinnella, set out to work in yards in Wadena, Deer Creek and Bluffton during their annual Day of Caring on April 27, 2022.
Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal

Though the snow finally melted only recently in some areas, students said the leaves were dry. The wind, however, often blew their piles of leaves astray. Each of the teams had students in different grade levels.

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“To work together as a group and see all these people come together and give back to the community because they give so much to us all the time,” Pettit said.

While supporting their communities and neighbors, partners like Mason Brothers, Culligan Water, Russ Davis and Minnesota Valley Irrigation continued their giving with food and water for the students.

“We get so much support from the communities, from Wadena, Deer Creek and Bluffton,” shared Tyler Church, middle/high school principal, with school board members at their April meeting. “It's our one day to go out and try to help people in need take care of some work outside, and we've had great success with it in the past.”

Two men cooking.
While students stream in for a lunch break during Day of Caring, Superintendent Lee Westrum, left, and Activities Director and Dean of Students Norm Gallant, right, finish cooking hamburgers and hot dogs on April 27, 2022.
Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal

NHS co-advisors Robby and Lori Grendahl said Day of Caring is a “feel good project” and a “give-give” day. They enjoy seeing students return from their hard work, from tired, dirty and frozen to excited about how the day went. Neighbors also love sharing treats along with their thankfulness.

“These elderly people, the people we do the homes of, it’s almost like Christmas,” Lori said.

“I like the intergenerational, young doing for the older,” Lori continued. “It’s neat to take them out of their ‘school day’ and the kids that maybe don’t do so well in school, they don’t really like to be in a chair, in a desk they excel out there. And it gives everybody a different niche and everyone’s giving back, and it’s just so warming to see that.”

The annual Day of Caring was started by Mike Ortmann with inspiration from Detroit Lakes. Donations help fund the project, including the district's Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) which donated Innovative Schools Project funds this year. The Innovative Schools grants are matched funds, through Sourcewell, after the school raises $5,000 to support reaching students with creative project ideas and items.

Rebecca Mitchell is a Multimedia Reporter for the Wadena Pioneer Journal and Perham Focus. She loves capturing local stories through words, photos and videos, and providing resources for the community.
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