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Volunteers help Chicago schools, senior centers and parks at annual Serve-a-Thon

Thousands of volunteers descended upon Chicago schools, parks and senior centers to give them a facelift as part of the Chicago Cares 21st annual Serve-a-thon.

About 5000 people began their day of service at Daley Plaza fresh-faced and energized. They returned tired and sweaty, but excited that their work will help countless children and seniors.

Wave after wave of volunteers made their way to Wacker Drive this morning to board more than 30 different buses that will take them to 30 different service projects across Chicago.

“We have volunteers at senior sites, interacting with the elderly who are often at risk for isolation and depression and can use that companionship, and we have a lot of volunteers in public parks, to make them worthy of spaces where the community can come together,” Megan Washburn of Chicago Cares said.

The nonprofit Chicago Cares runs the annual Serve-a-thon; it organizes the event and recruits the volunteers, and corporate sponsors contribute the supplies.

About 120 volunteers of all ages spent their day sprucing up Graham Elementary School in the city’s Back of the Yards neighborhood.

“It’s overwhelming to see the need,” volunteer Elizabeth Gardener said. “I think its great that everybody’s volunteering their time and talent.”

The school, built in 1905, will get a new welcome sign and a fresh coat of paint. All this work would have taken months, if not a year, for the school to do on its own, but now it will just take a day.

“Anytime I can get free volunteers to do maintenance to help beautify the school, it just helps the whole community,” said Graham Elementary principal John Nichols.

The jobs are not easy, so hard work and teamwork is a must—two ingredients this city could use more of.

Chicago Cares said having about 5000 volunteers working today equaled about 20,000 hours of much needed and welcomed community service.

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