By Mickey Schommer
GREEN BAY – For the second year since its revival, students at Green Bay East High School will be participating in a day-long volunteering project to rake their neighbors’ leaves on Saturday, Nov. 4.
Will Garay and Karen McGrath, Green Bay East teachers and National Honor Society (NHS) advisors, have been helping with this project since the early 2000s.
“When we started helping out originally, it was just about helping out veterans and the handicapped that live in [the neighborhoods of the Green Bay East attendance area],” said Garay.
“This was started in 1993 by a retired teacher by the name of John Reiman with his minivan and about eight kids. Because of COVID and other reasons, [the project] ended up stopping.”
Garay and McGrath have since pledged to renew the project.
“We were able to restart it again last year,” said Garay. “We did 15 houses and took one bus, and this year, our kids have stepped up. We’re looking at about 100 kids who are helping out this year with a goal of at least 20 houses.
“Our football coach, Niko [Sila], has been phenomenal. He’ll bring the whole football team, and then there are about 60 East-side kids who just decided to volunteer.”
“There were so many kids who signed up that we just had to stop it. And it was really fast. We opened this up and within a day, [it was] full. Our kids love to volunteer,” said McGrath.
“Last year it was nine hours [that they worked] and we took kids out the following weekend to finish up a house.”
But it’s not just about the sheer quantity of volunteers.
“We’ve seen people cry when they see a bus of kids coming up and [the students] rake this yard and it takes 15 minutes because we have so many kids. The kids see that. They see the impact that they’re making for these elderly and handicapped by doing something that they can’t do themselves. Last year, [one of the owners] told us it gives her hope for the future. The kids see that,” added McGrath.
“It’s pretty cool how that hard work doesn’t scare them off.
“There’s different ways to volunteer and sometimes spending hours for an entire day raking isn’t going to be someone’s first pick and it was immediate. They knew signing up that it was going to be tough work and that didn’t scare them away. Those are our kids; we’re grateful.”
“This has been a project that has been going on for a long time and there’s been so many staff that have been involved in this and it’s very special,” said Garay. “I’m going to steal a line from John Reiman, the brainchild of this project. When I told him that we restarted this project, he made a comment: ‘This project really does show the good in our kids.’”
Because of the number of students who have signed up for this volunteering project, Garay and McGrath are still in need of rakes and tarps for their volunteers.
If you or someone you know could benefit from this, please contact Garay at [email protected] or McGrath at [email protected] or call Emily or Kristina in the main office at (920) 448-2090. option No. 3.