A Conversation with the Center for Grieving Children, a Day of Caring Agency

As part of our 25th anniversary celebrations, we sat down with Center for Grieving Children’s Executive Director, Anne Heros, to discuss her agency’s experience with Day of Caring over the years.

How long have you been participating in Day of Caring?

I actually don’t know the specific year, but my belief is that the Center for Grieving Children has been participating since the very beginning. We’ve been involved at least since I joined the organization as a volunteer in 1995 and continued on as a staff member in 1997.

What is your role in Day of Caring? What agency preparation goes into making it a successful event?

I usually greet the volunteers and give the history and a tour of the center. I return at lunch and speak about the role United Way plays within our agency—how we’re supported not only through this event but also in our programming.

Preparation usually depends on the project but may involve getting donations of materials (such as plants and mulch) so volunteers have what they need in order to complete the project. We also make sure all of the necessary paperwork is submitted and a plan for food and beverages is in place.

Tell us about some of the projects that Day of Caring volunteers have helped your agency with over the years. What stands out to you?

We typically have projects inside and outside on Day of Caring. Outdoors, volunteers help to prepare the Butterfly Garden for the season. This special space is where people can go to remember the ones they lost in a beautiful and comforting area filled with flowers and plants (and of course, an occasional butterfly). The Butterfly Garden has really evolved over the years and is absolutely flourishing now.

Volunteers also help with additional landscaping around the building and have painted the cement areas out front. Inside, groups may be painting, organizing, or spring cleaning—giving high-use areas a real thorough wipe down. Since we moved to our current (larger) location eight years ago, we’ve had more tasks to be done on Day of Caring.

We usually host volunteers from different companies each year, though there have been some years when the same group returned. What’s also neat is that even when people come from within just one company, sometimes they haven’t met each other before. We do an exercise with them about where they’re from and it helps them bond as a team.

Can you talk a little about the impact of Day of Caring? How has it affected your agency? What has Day of Caring enabled your organization to do (that you may not have been able to do otherwise)?

Day of Caring helps us accomplish work that would otherwise be very expensive for us. When donors give you money, they often want as much as possible to go to programming. This event provides us with the resources to get things like gardening and deep cleaning done. The environment really makes an impact on the families that come here and helps them to feel welcome the minute they step onto the premises.

Day of Caring has an impact on our staff too. There’s an air of excitement in our building to see what the volunteers are doing. All staff members go down throughout the day to check out the progress and talk with volunteers. It’s uplifting. While a lot of preparation is needed for the day to go well, it’s worth it because of what we get in return!

Has Day of Caring helped you share your organization’s work with the greater community? Has it helped you build relationships?

Nearly every year there’s at least one or two people who already have a connection to our work, and it’s also a great opportunity for more people to learn about our programs.

Coming to Day of Caring and hearing what the Center is about always seems to have an impact on people. Volunteers get connected emotionally and want to stay involved. Some even sign up for our facilitator trainings.

Day of Caring volunteers also become ambassadors, returning to their workplace and sharing what we do with others who may be interested in supporting or making use of our services.

How do you feel it affects the Greater Portland community?

I think it’s very motivating to have an impact on your community, and with Day of Caring, you can see what you’ve done at the end of the day. That visual is great! More people probably get involved in the community because of that.