Our Week 9 experience gave me the opportunity to work with the “Big Red Machine.” This is the how I refer to our team at Coca-Cola here in Fort Wayne. Almost three years ago when I moved to Fort Wayne, Coca-Cola was not an active member of this community. I was told by many different organizations that Coca-Cola was too “corporate” and that we didn’t care about our city or the people in it. I took that remark very personal and vowed that I would work to change the culture and ultimately the perception in the community. I am proud to say that we have come a long way on the journey. We have participated in, hosted, and sponsored many events over the last few years. It is a fact that when the “Big Red Machine” gets involved, things happened. This was the again the case with this experience.
I, along with 10 of my teammates, volunteered during the United Way’s Day of Caring. The Day of Caring is an event that gets individuals and businesses directly involved with improving the communities in which we live. This year over 1000 people representing many businesses and organizations in Allen County participated in completing over 60 projects within the Fort Wayne community. Each team is given a project in which to complete. We had the opportunity to help the Visiting Nurse and Hospice Home located on Homestead Road. This facility provides medical care along with emotional and spiritual support to those entering the last stages of their lives. The facility provides a wonderful service to their patients and their families.
We spent the morning landscaping around the building. We trimmed the bushes, pulled weeds, and beautified the flower beds. We also had a group working to help clean out the attic so that items could be thrown away or recycled. The work around the building was definitely needed. Many of shrubs and bushes hadn’t been managed in some time and were becoming quite unruly. Some of them were even taller than my 6’9 inch frame. The need for beautiful landscaping is very important because the facility offers great outdoor areas that patients, families, and volunteers can use to get away from the stresses of life inside the building. There is a deck that overlooks a small pond that has hosted birthday parties and funerals. There park benches that line the stone walkways that offer a person a place to sit with their thoughts. It is a very peaceful setting that offers a peaceful place for those that need it. The employees were very proud of this area and it was obvious that they were happy we were there. The appreciation that the staff, the volunteers, and even the families showed us while we were working was tremendous. It is hard to put into the words the look on their faces or the sparkle in their eyes as they told us stories about their outside retreat. Many of the plants, bushes, and trees were donated and planted in remembrance of a patient. Families would donate these as a way of saying thanks for the treatment and support the staff showed their loved ones during their last days on this earth. It was obvious that the gardens were treasured and we were honored to help them reinvigorate the area that morning.
The United Way Day of Caring is a great event. It encourages people to mobilize in groups to make a difference. I would encourage everyone to contact your local United Way to learn how you and your business can get involved. It is a great and easy way to get involved and help your community. I do, however, want to challenge the concept of one day of giving. I believe that there are individuals and companies who feel very good about their accomplishments during this event and they should. They deserve credit for their actions and I commend them for getting involved. But why do we have to wait until a great organization like the United Way creates an event to get involved. We all, as individuals, as groups, as organizations, and as communities can have DAYS, WEEKS, and MONTHS of giving. We cannot be content with one Day of Caring. We should all be willing to care everyday about our neighbors and our community. Caring and giving to others day in and day out will create great communities. Great communities will generate more giving and more caring. I do not know about you, but I look forward to the day that we can look around and see what this movement has created. We can create an epidemic of caring and giving. I am going to do my part. How about you?