In its 18 years, the Labor of Love effort of United Way of Eastern La Salle County has worked on more homes than it did this year, but it has rarely if ever had as large of a turnout of volunteers as it did Saturday.
"It was an absolute record for a crowd of volunteers," said Shelli Ocepek, executive director, who had more than 500 volunteers committed before the Saturday morning breakfast meeting and than had an inch-thick stack of forms brought in by another 100 or so volunteers on the day of the event.
Volunteers worked on 38 different homes where owners were unable to afford or unable to perform maintenance and repair.
Some took on huge projects such as Serena FFA members scraping almost all the paint for repainting at the same house where carpenters union members were fixing rotten porch pillars and trim and Laborers International Union of North American were setting up scaffolding for tearing off all siding and re-insulating a home in the 700 block of West Madison Street.
Others, such as a group of Ottawa Township High School students, had lighter work, tidying up gardens, pulling weeds out of driveway cracks and cleaning a basement for Clara and Louie Black on West McKinley. As students removed weeds from a bed to reveal prickly pears that she called Mexican roses, Clara was pleased.
"It made me sick to sit out here and see all the weeds in there," she said, noting she had leg surgery and soon after that fell and broke her arm.
Exelon's La Salle Generating Station, participating in the event for the sixth year, brought in 100 volunteers plus 20 volunteers from Seneca High School, according to Adam Slahor, an organizer of the company's volunteer effort. And, before the teams of volunteers were dispatched to work on 37 homes in Ottawa, Marseilles, Seneca and all points in between, Exelon presented United Way with a check for $15,000. The company has donated $80,000 in the past six years.
Other big teams turned out from banks, stores, distribution centers, Ottawa Township High School, Serena High School FFA and labor and construction trades unions. And there were the individuals and small groups who showed up and waited for assignments.
For instance, Katie Deihl and Dana Troupis of LaMoille, Ashley McDowell of Seneca and Rebecca Pitts of Ottawa showed up because they are supposed to do volunteer work and learn about nonprofit efforts as part of their personal and community health class. Pitts said they are supposed learn how to volunteer for a certain organization, write a paper on the history of that organization and where that organization gets its funding, and, of course, to work.