Community volunteers care to help others

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

JANESVILLE—Nearly 50 Regal Beloit Durst-Mastergears' volunteers assembled outside the dining hall of Camp Indian Trails near Janesville on Wednesday, waiting for instructions before breaking into two groups.

Half were set to paint the exterior of the camp's Brace Lodge and Trading Post. The rest headed out to clear brush, weeds and thorns away from the camp's entrance off North River Road.

“Hopefully they'll have time to cut a new walking trail between the BB gun and archery ranges," said Nick Rose, camping executive for the Boys Scouts of America Glacier's Edge Council.

The volunteers were among a record 725 people from 27 regional companies who stepped up to work on 83 projects for 30 local nonprofit agencies during the annual United Way Blackhawk Region's Day of Caring.

The event is part of the official kick off for the local United Way chapter's 2014 fundraising campaign. The one-day event gives residents in Rock and northern Winnebago counties in Illinois the chance to help local nonprofits while learning more about programs that help the community, said Beth Gliebe, Day of Caring volunteer project coordinator.

Wednesday's projects ranged from toiling in the soil at a community garden to building free little libraries at bus stops near a domestic violence shelter.

Scott Coonrod, Regal Beloit's volunteer coordinator, explained his willingness to participate.

“I love to work with my hands," he said. "Doing volunteer projects fits in my skill set as the manufacturing project management office leader, and it's a hands-on experience."

The project also was special to Coonrod, who grew up in the Scouting program.

“I was a Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Eagle Scout. Coming back to camp is a bit nostalgic and fun,” he said.

Recruiting 35 percent of Regal Beloit's workforce to volunteer wasn't difficult, Coonrod said.

“People enjoy the opportunity to get out of the office, and the organizations feels strongly about supporting the community,” he said.

Coonrod noted that the vice presidents of each department within the company's local division volunteered Wednesday.

“We're well represented here today,” he said.

While the Scouts provided most of the supplies, many volunteers brought their own water, paint brushes and tools. Regal Beloit also rented a couple pieces of heavy equipment and provided the labor.

For that, the council is appreciative.

 “We're thankful to Regal and United Way to provide a workforce for us,” Rose said.

Though the council has different troops that conduct service projects at the camp, they probably wouldn't be able to get them all done in a timely manner, Rose said.

“We keep a running list of projects,” he said. “It's a big piece of property (over 200 acre) with a lot of things that need to be done, and we don't have the staff or manpower to make it happen."

Paint for the lodge/trading post cost $200, said Bob Broomfield, camp ranger.

If labor would have been hired to do the work volunteers did Wednesday, “it'd be thousands of dollars,” he said.

As volunteers used brooms and rags to dust cobwebs and applied tape around the glass of windows and doors, Rose explained the importance of the paint job.

“We take care of the resources we have. If the building looks nice and the camp is maintained then our customers have a better experience,” he said.

The buzz of chainsaws, mowers, brush whackers, and hedge and tree trimmers could be heard as workers filled a flatbed truck with brush. In turn, the brush was being hauled away and piled for use at a wild animal sanctuary.

Don Soukup was among volunteers in the group helping clear brush.

“I like the idea of community service, and Regal is a strong proponent of that,” he said.

Soukup also didn't mind getting a day out of the office.

“It's nice being outside on a sunny day,” he said.

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