United Way partners give back to community

Ashleigh Drudik repaints a faded tic-tac-toe board on a
sidewalk at Libs Park Friday during United Way's Day of

This morning, the 19 partners of United Way of South Central Nebraska gathered together in Libs Park to make the Born Learning Trail better.

“Today we are having our annual United Way day of action,” said Michele Henke, executive director of the United Way of South Central Nebraska. “United Way Worldwide started this about eight years ago. They are doing it all over the world. It is just a day when we want to bring all volunteers together, start a movement and give back to our community.”

Henke said the partners of the local United Way each sent volunteers to Libs Park this morning “to do our part in Hastings.”

“We are revitalizing the Born Learning Trail and picking up the park. It is a way of saying thank you. The Hastings community really supports United Way and our partner agencies. It is necessary to give back,” Henke said.

Along the learning trail in Libs Park, the many volunteers were painting hopscotch, car race and tic-tac-toe games, as well as several other ornamental things on the concrete of the trail. Others walked around the park and picked up trash and debris.

“Right now there are about 10 activities for kids to do. It is an early education program. It needed some revitalizing and repainting. We also wanted to add some things and make it fun and new, so people will still want to come out here and use it,” Henke said.

Libs Park is across the street from the Hastings Family YMCA and has a splash pad, so many children are in the park each day.

“What we really want to do is to inspire other people. It doesn’t have to be a huge project,” Henke said. “Today, we have a lot of people who came out to do this but it is not a huge undertaking. Volunteering can be helping your neighbor, at your church or at a school. Our hope is to inspire other people to give back.”

Ashleigh Drudik of the SASA Crisis Center was busy painting a tic-tac-toe with red paint.

“This is a great opportunity for SASA to get involved in the community and give back,” she said. “United Way is one of our major funding sources and, without them, there would be no way that we would be able to help as many domestic violence victims and sexual assault victims as we do.”

Though she was free-handing the tic-tac-toe board in red paint, she said, “I am a little nervous about it. Art is not my strong suit, that’s for sure.”

Ruann Root of Court Appointed Special Advocates said United Way makes the CASA program possible.

“They provide us with the opportunity to continue to provide services for abused and neglected children,” she said. “We recruit, train and manage volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children that have been removed from their homes.”

The United Way is one agency that helps CASA by giving it a public profile as well as providing it with much-needed financial support, so it can continue in its mission to help children.

“This is a way that we can all give back to the community,” Root said. “United Way wouldn’t be where they are without the community stepping up and giving them financial support. This is just one small way that all of us (partner agencies) can thank the community for all that they have done for us and for the United Way.”

Last year, the United Way partners polished all the bronze statues in downtown Hastings for the United Way Day of Action.

To read more, see Friday's Hastings Tribune or the Tribune e-edition.>>

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