Watertown’s day of community service has turned into a month of volunteering.
After a two year hiatus, Watertown Community Foundation is bringing back Watertown Helps Out in May, and WHO22 will have multiple opportunities during the month to lend a hand to local organizations around the city.
Watertown Helps Out started in 2014 as a way for Watertown community members to help support their neighbors after Watertown was touched by the marathon bombings, it has now become a mainstay and beloved springtime event.
In 2022, WCF decided to expand to a month for a few different reasons, said Executive Director Jan Singer.
“Having had to forgo WHO in 2020 and 2021, we wanted to give back in a bigger and better way,” Singer said. “Watertown Helps Out, an annual day of community service and volunteering on the first Saturday in May, has been a mainstay of WCF since 2014. Due to the pandemic, it has been on hold for the past two years. In 2022 we are bringing it back and expanding the event from one day to an entire month in order to accommodate more organizations, their needs and schedules.”
The Foundation reached out to 100 organizations offering to provide help with projects that require resources beyond what they can provide themselves. Volunteers help with cleaning, trash pick-up, gardening (spring clean-up, planting, raking, pruning, etc), organizing closets/shelves, handyman work, general errands, light carpentry, delivery/posting of flyers, office work, data entry, tech support, painting or decorating projects and more, Singer said. See the volunteering opportunities by clicking here.
“The pandemic, the great resignation, mental health challenges and more, have created major staffing issues within the community-based organizations in Watertown,” she said. “Many have had to defer maintenance, shorten hours of service, and in some cases close their business. We aim to pilot the month-long Watertown Helps Out expansion in May 2022 working with our all-volunteer Board of Directors.”
Some places where WHO volunteers will provide help include the Watertown Boys & Girls Club, The Perkins School for the Blind, the Charles River Conservancy, both food pantries and the Watertown Community Fridge, as well as the Watertown Public Schools. Volunteer projects range from river and garden clean-ups to food drives and hands on time supporting Watertown students.
The expanded schedule means additional opportunities.
“This means when the Watertown Boys and Girls Club needs a few extra help on Tuesday afternoons, we can solicit volunteers from new life sciences companies or from students looking to complete community service hours,” Singer said.
Along with the help on projects, WHO helps make connections.
“WHO helps raise awareness of local organizations and strengthens relationships with people interested in supporting their work,” Singer said. “In the past WHO has brought together over 300 volunteers in a single day to support Watertown non-profit organizations in completing dozens of general tasks. As wonderful as the event has been, one weekend day in May doesn’t fit everyone’s schedule.”
The Foundation seeks to add even more volunteering opportunities throughout the year, Singer said.
“The ultimate goal is to create an ongoing volunteer program in which non-profits in Watertown and surrounding towns can sign up to get help with projects, and volunteers can find opportunities year-round,” Singer said.
To accomplish this goal, the WCF seeks to create a Program Director position.
“Through experience we have found that volunteer programs require constant oversight of locations and volunteers,” Singer said. “Our long-term goal is to create a position for a Program Director who could plan workshops to educate helpers as to why certain populations are in need, to encourage humility and respect, and keep equity front and center in all we do.”
Sponsors make WHO22 possible, Singer said. This year’s major sponsors are: Kymera Therapeutics, Sira Naturals, Watertown Savings Bank, and Arranta Bio. Additional sponsors are welcome, and any group in need that hasn’t already signed up can still reach out.