United Way’s Day of Action Brings Over 100 Volunteers to Support Deer River

On the morning of June 21st, the longest day of the year, volunteers congregated at Deer River High School, ready for a day of volunteering. Volunteers of various ages came from all over the region to lend a hand.

Day of Action is United Way of 1000 Lakes’ largest volunteer initiative, annually harnessing the region’s volunteer force to donate their time and talents to make an impact in Itasca-area communities. Since its inception in 2013, 1,153 volunteers have contributed 6,624 hours to local projects, equaling an impact value of $165,766.

Volunteers painted curbs, parking lines, and fire hydrants in downtown Deer River on Day of Action.

In recent years, United Way has collaborated with Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA), Itasca County Habitat for Humanity, and city governments to target Day of Action efforts where they’re needed most. These partnerships also allow volunteers to tackle a range of projects, including those that help homeowners, and small businesses, and improve public spaces. 

This is the second year that Deer River has been selected as the Day of Action site. The event drew 108 volunteers to the community, resulting in over 500 cumulative hours being donated. Several volunteer groups, including those from the Blandin Foundation, Hope House, and Lake Country Power helped clean up debris and damage from the storm that struck the city at the end of May. Groups from KOOTASCA and Minnesota Diversified Industries (MDI) helped with residential cleanup projects in the morning and helped put a fresh coat of paint on curbs, parking lines, and fire hydrants in the afternoon. Al Lauer of Al’s Restoration led volunteers in restoring signs welcoming visitors to Deer River. 

Post-storm cleanup was a major focus of Day of Action efforts, with volunteers helping out in residents’ yards and public spaces.

One major achievement was the changes made to the Deer River Community Garden. Lead by Get Fit Itasca, volunteers, including groups from Affinity Plus, Northern Star Co-op, Orty’s Custom Meats, and Target planted flowers, mulched garden beds, built a gazebo, painted walls, and installed murals.

“Within a few hours, volunteers can see their impact, whether it is planting a tree, removing storm debris, repainting street markings, or something else,” expressed Kim Brink Smith, United Way executive director. “The best part is that when you take a step back and look at the collective work, you see the larger impact on the community as a whole.”

The majority of volunteers came from other parts of the county to help work on beautification projects in Deer River’s downtown neighborhood.

Day of Action volunteers posted murals, mulched, and more in the Deer River Community Garden.

All in all, volunteers completed 19 projects throughout Deer River, contributing nearly $15,000 of value to the community and showing the collective impact of volunteerism in the Itasca area. Day of Action sponsors included Paul Bunyan Communications at the Platinum level and the Forward Health Foundation, which served lunch to volunteers, and Park State Bank at the Gold level. Essentia Health staff were on-site to provide water, snacks, and medical treatment to volunteers. 

Volunteers contributed over 500 hours to revitalization projects in Deer River on United Way’s Day of Action on June 21st.

Participating in Day of Action is just one of many ways that those who live, work, and play in the Itasca area give back through volunteerism. Groups and individuals looking for service opportunities are invited to visit Bonfire, the Itasca area’s online volunteer portal, at volunteer.uwlakes.org to learn how one can volunteer throughout the year.

Individuals, organizations, and leaders in the Itasca area interested in hosting or becoming involved in Day of Action or another volunteer project are invited to learn more at uwlakes.org or get in touch with United Way at 218-999-7570 or info@uwlakes.org.