Helping Hands

October 1, 2018, Department, by Suzanne Nathan

2018 October Park Bench 410

People volunteer for a variety of reasons, but most agree — giving a service to an organization in need also provides a sense of purpose to those doing the work, creating a win-win opportunity. Such is the case for Grapevine Parks and Recreation in Texas. In June, the department launched its “Happy to Help Saturdays” program, a volunteer initiative in partnership with Keep Grapevine Beautiful, a Keep Texas and Keep America Beautiful affiliate. On the fourth Saturday of the month, June–September, community members gathered at a designated park to paint, plant, pick up litter and more.

Volunteers registered online or simply showed up the morning of the event. Once on-site, they received a T-shirt, instructions for the task at hand and any necessary supplies. Attendance for these events grew over time and ranged from 40 to 70 volunteers. Participants were a mix of business groups, students and interested individuals. One staff member organized each event, and experienced volunteers were selected as team leaders to act as hosts and provide safety orientation. All efforts went toward improving the appearance of the community and helping residents engage with one another while giving back.

“Volunteer programs such as these are great opportunities for engaging the community in stewardship and environmental education,” says Kevin Mitchell, director of Grapevine Parks and Recreation. “When we empower volunteers to take the lead and make a difference, they feel a genuine sense of ownership over projects. We couldn’t do the work that we do without our volunteers’ help.”

“Our volunteers play an invaluable part in maintaining our exemplary parks system,” adds Cindy Harris, City of Grapevine volunteer services liaison. “I enjoy working alongside folks that are passionate about preserving and improving these spaces. We look forward to increasing our growing volunteer force at Happy to Help Saturdays.”

Grapevine Parks and Recreation isn’t alone in creating volunteer events. In August, NRPA announced its “Heart Your Park” day of service initiative to connect corporations to volunteer events in local parks across the country. By engaging volunteers in conserving and restoring public park lands, NRPA aims to provide an improved quality of life in local communities. Other agencies are offering similar programs in their communities as well.

Suzanne Nathan is NRPA’s Media Specialist.