Nothing keeps a strong community down, not even weather! Despite threats of severe spring thunderstorms on the morning of April 25, hundreds of committed volunteers turned out to volunteer their time and skills to make improvements for the Sandy Springs community at the 13th annual Volunteer for a Better Sandy Springs (VBSS) Day. Presented by Leadership Sandy Springs, a non-profit organization that trains professionals for stronger leadership and community interface, the event kicked off with a rally and an enthusiastic charge from Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul.
Led by volunteer team leaders, participants chose one work site among 20 non-profit organizations, parks and public schools in which to serve for a half-day of work that included refreshing plant beds; planting spring annuals, shrubs and groundcover; painting interiors; organizing inventory; cleaning out closets; creating outdoor classrooms, herb and vegetable gardens, bagging trash and more. Support from numerous community-minded sponsors each year makes the event possible by providing funding for tools and equipment, plants and gardening materials, paint and cleaning supplies, and food and beverages to fuel the workers. But the labor is free!
This year’s sites included Abernathy Arts Center, Community Assistance Center, Dorothy Benson Senior Multipurpose Center, Heritage Sandy Springs, Island Ford Park – CRNRA, Ison Springs Elementary School, Keep Sandy Springs Beautiful – Recycling Center, Lake Forest Elementary School, Mary Hall Freedom House, North Springs Charter High School, Sandy Springs Library (inside and outside), Sandy Springs local parks, Sandy Springs Tennis Center, Sandy Springs Charter Middle School, Spalding Drive Elementary School, Watershed Alliance of Sandy Springs, and Woodland Charter Elementary School.
VBSS was conceived as a community project by Leadership Sandy Springs’ (LSS) class of 2002 and designed to coincide with Earth Day to engage volunteers in the cleanup and beautification of the city. Since 2002, VBSS has grown to a community-wide day of service in which Sandy Springs non-profits have received needed materials and volunteer hours, worth more than $425,000 in improvement to their facilities and grounds.
Many volunteers come back each year and volunteer in various ways. School groups build this event into their service programs and civic organizations use VBSS as a means to serve the community. “One of the best aspects, aside from the work that gets accomplished,” says Carolyn Axt, retiring LSS executive director, “is seeing individuals get ‘hooked’ on volunteering and continue their involvement beyond this one day of service. It’s terrific to see families and groups working together to create a better community.”
Steve Soteres, vice president of interior construction at Choate Construction, not only sponsors the event through his company but also volunteers along with his employees. He says, “Choate got involved in VBSS several years ago when we volunteered at Island Ford Park at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. We encourage our employees to bring their family and friends to spend a day in the park and volunteer. Additionally, our families discover a beautiful wildlife preserve with hiking trails that they can enjoy, right here in our own community.”
Sherry Epstein, president of Watershed Alliance of Sandy Springs (WASS), takes her volunteers into the water of several of the creeks. “I really appreciate that WASS was offered an opportunity to be one of the VBSS worksites. There are countless educational moments for participants as they learn about the role of the watersheds in the life of the streams which lead to the river, opportunities to meet neighbors along the creeks, and a delightful sense of community as we work together. It does make this city ‘home.’ We really appreciated LSS’ program and the involvement of their volunteers with our organization.”