United Way of Southwest Michigan mobilizes volunteers for Day of Action for Seniors

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — As a regional sales manager for First Source Bank, Kim Vincent does not typically get to wear jeans to work. However, on Thursday Vincent joined dozens of volunteers in dressing comfortably to help rake leaves and clear gutters as part of United Way of Southwest Michigan’s eighth annual Day of Action for Seniors.

Each fall season, United Way seeks to inspire people to “rake a difference” by helping those who cannot physically complete outdoor work prepare their yards and home for the winter season. The nonprofit compiles a list of residents across Berrien and Cass counties who need help and then mobilizes volunteers to come to their aid.

By 10:45 a.m. Vincent, of Buchanan, and roughly 14 other people from First Source Bank had completed their first project at the 200 block of Hartman Road in Niles. As volunteers rested before tackling their next yard, Vincent reflected on why the company chooses to be part of the service day.

“We always wear suit coats and suits. Here we can put on our jeans and we have people from different areas in the bank,” Vincent said. “A lot of times, we may not work directly with each other, so to put a team together like this where we can work together, it’s a good team event for us.”

Vincent said First Source Bank has participated in the service day for the last six years. She said the annual Day of Action for Seniors sees participants from First Source Banks across Michiana. Those who participated in the event were paid like a regular work day to take part in it.

“The bank wants us out and we love it,” Vincent said. “It really is to get away from the phones and the day and just have a good time.”

Vincent said she did believe they were able to “rake a difference” in the lives of Berrien and Cass county residents.

“It keeps their yard healthy, to me it takes the stress off them, because they are thinking, ‘how am I going to get this accomplished?’” Vincent said. “Honestly, it keeps people independent and it is saving them money.”

The large yard was no small feat for volunteers. After more than an hour of raking, an immense pile of leaves bordered the property. Carri Thessin, of Niles, a bank center manager, said she was satisfied with their work.

“I’m really happy that we are able to come out and help the community,” Thessin said. “I think it shows the caring of the community.”

Homeowner Betty Finn has lived in her home for the past 55 years. She said without the help of First Source Bank employees, her yard would likely have been left in disarray.

“I’m so relieved, because I can’t do it,” Finn said. “They did a beautiful job.”

Next, First Source Bank employees moved on to complete three more yards for the day.

Representatives from Fifth Third Bank also took part Thursday. Emily Robinson, of Stevensville, worked with 10 people to help residents of Dowagiac. The team raked yards and cleaned the gutters of three homes.

She said those they were able to help appreciated their hard work.

“I think it is just a great relief for them,” Robinson said. “They are happy to have an organization or group of people do it. We can get it done quickly because it is a big group of us.”

Robinson said this is the fourth year that she has been part of the service day. 

“It’s a great way to partner with United Way,” Robinson said. “We are happy to help in any way that we can.”

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