Mid-Ohio Valley students find inspiration in United Way Service Day

Photo Provided Local students Thursday participated in the United Way Alliance’s Student Service Day at the Harvest of Hope at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.

PARKERSBURG — The United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley held its fourth annual Student Service Day on Thursday.

The day involves students from high schools around the area and provides them with the opportunity to give a day of service to their community.

More than 160 volunteers from five high schools came together to create positive change across the Mid-Ohio Valley, said Stacy DeCicco, executive director of the United Way. Student Service Day was launched in 2016, she said.

“It was an overwhelming success that first year with lasting implications. As a result of that first Student Service Day, our Student United Way Organization was born,” DeCicco said. “We recognized the value of giving local high school students the opportunity to learn more about the community where they live and to bring their thoughts and energies together to create true impact. The goal of Student Service Day is really about connecting our young people with ways to be engaged all year long and we are so proud to see that there were far reaching and long-lasting effects from our efforts. It is simply inspiring to see so many young people willing to invest in our community by sharing their time and talent.”

Service projects included landscaping, cleaning, assembling materials for clients and painting.

Photo Provided Friendship Park on 13th Street was a site during the United Way Alliance’s Annual Student Service Day on Thursday. Other sites included the Salvation Army, the Boys and Girls Club, the O’Neill Senior Center and the Harvest of Hope food bank.

“Our hope is that many of our volunteers will be inspired today to reach out and volunteer on their own. We provide these opportunities to show people what living united looks like — to provide the platform for service and then encourage them to consider volunteering all throughout the year,” DeCicco said.

This year there was an extra component to the service day as a team of volunteers from the Parkersburg Rotary Club assisted students with the daylong projects.

The service day was in honor of the Rotary’s centennial celebration, past president Jill Parsons said.

“In honor of the Rotary Club of Parkersburg’s 100th anniversary, we are excited to partner with the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley on several community service days this year,” Parsons said. “Our first opportunity was (Thursday’s) Student Community Service Day.”

Rotarians cleaned flower beds, painted, sorted clothing closets and packed meal kits “with some of the most engaging and civic-minded young people in our community,” Parsons said. “Service Above Self is the Rotary motto and was most fitting for today’s activities as volunteers, young and older, gave of their time and energy to support several worthy community organizations.”

Photo Provided Student volunteers spread mulch on Thursday during the United Way Alliance’s annual Student Service Day.

Student volunteers from West Virginia University at Parkersburg also participated.

“It was just amazing to see so many people in the community come together to help ensure that this was a successful day,” DeCicco said.

Amy Arnold, a United Way program assistant, said she was proud of the participants.

“I am proud of all of the students and agencies who gave their time today. They came out on a rainy day, competed all kinds of projects, with the intent to do good in the community,” she said. “The students themselves are so proud of the work they are able to assist with and so aware of the valuable impact that they are making.”

Among the participants was Louden Haga, Student United Way president. United Way has impacted his high school career, he said.

Photo Provided Habitat for Humanity of the Mid-Ohio Valley was among the recipients during the United Way Alliance’s annual Student Service Day on Thursday.

“United Way has been a huge part of my life for the last three years, this has been my third year doing Student Service Day, and each year I see different ways in which my work helps impact the community,” Haga said. “Today I was with the Parkersburg South Wrestling Team at the Salvation Army, and we helped pack bags for the one person meals they deliver to the elderly and people with disabilities, as well as helped to redo the mulch on their playgrounds. This has helped me see how much the community needs help. I am proud to know that I can make a difference and that I can inspire others to do the same.”

Grace Gold, a three-year member of the student United Way board, talked about the valuable experience.

“United Way has been such a large and impactful part of my life for the past three years. One of my favorite events has always been Student Service Day because it is such a great way to get students all over our town involved in the community,” she said. “This event shows students that there are real needs in our community and even the smallest actions can have such a large impact.”