Spring cleaning comes to Bay City's parks and business districts during the United Way Day of Caring

The annual Wenonah Park Cleanup Day and United Way of Bay County Day of Caring events are coming together for the third year to deep clean and beautify Bay City.

The volunteer effort begins at 7:30 a.m. Fri., April 21, finishing National Volunteer Week strong. National Volunteer Week runs April 17-21. 

For the cleanup event, volunteers begin arriving as early as 7:30 a.m. in Wenonah Park, 111 Center Ave. in Downtown Bay City. Click here to sign up for the event.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel plans to greet volunteers with coffee and cookies in the morning. Lunch will be provided by UA Local 85 and Rosie’s Pies & Bakery, with Fabiano Brothers and McLaren Bay Region supplying bottled water and drinks.

Many volunteers will spend the day working in Wenonah Park. Over the years, though, as the number of volunteers has grown, organizers have added other sites to the cleanup day. This year, volunteers will work in Wenonah Park, Carroll Park, and some areas in the Midland Street Business District on Bay City’s West Side. Others will work with Bay County Habitat for Humanity.

The Wenonah Park Cleanup Day and United Way Day of Caring were combined in 2021 to strengthen efforts and be as impactful as possible.

“We merged the events and that has been the best thing we’ve ever done,” says Rob Clark, Director of Communications and Community Relations at Michigan Sugar Company. Clark organized the first Wenonah Park Cleanup Day. “This has become an event not to be missed. If you miss the Day of Caring, then you’re missing out now.”

Volunteer support has grown substantially since the events merged. Support continues to grow every year, from about 150 volunteers in 2021 to nearly 350 in 2022.

“It’s powerful to see that many people. We have literally hundreds of people showing up,” says Clark.

Organizers are optimistic there will be even more volunteers this year.

“After just a day and a half of registration being live, we have sites that are already full and we are adding more sites on,” says Nicole Luczak, President and CEO of United Way of Bay County.

The Midland Street Business District is adding projects for a team of 100 T.L. Handy Middle School students who want to participate. Supervisors will be helping and presenting plenty of jobs, such as painting, tending flowers, and general cleanup.

“We will potentially have a mini-station for the West Side this year so they don’t miss on lunch, T-shirts, or anything,” says Luczak.

No matter where they’re stationed, volunteers can expect to rake, mow, mulch, paint, gather trash, and more. Organizers advise to dress for the weather, wear layers, bring work gloves, and wear shoes that can get dirty.

Carroll Park is the second largest site. There, the focus will be on painting the animal rides and cleaning the pond in preparation for spring.

Near Wenonah Park, the Downtown Development Authority will be assigning street blocks to volunteers to paint the yellow lines and clean the street. Wenonah Park is the largest site, requiring the most volunteers.

“At Wenonah Park, we rake, sweep, clean, and pick up trash,” says Clark, who started the Wenonah Park Cleanup Day in 2014. With an army of volunteers and support from community partners, Clark knows they can make Wenonah Park shine.

Reminiscing on previous years, Clark says, “In four hours’ time, that park comes out of winter shining and ready for a summer of programming. It’s no big secret that I love Wenonah Park. It’s an absolute gem of the community and I’m lucky I get to be a part of that.”

Paul Davis Restoration is one the longest-standing partners in the event. The company’s employees have volunteered their time and expertise to the program since 2014, earning accolades from Luczak.

“They are a huge part of it,” she says. “They do the power washing of the Friendship Ring, and last year they helped with some off-site power washing as well.”

Echoing Luczak’s praise, Clark stresses his appreciation from having professionals help.

“The Friendship Ring is a huge work of art,” says Clark. “We would not be able to clean it, paint it, or care for it without a bucket truck and a small army of people who know what they’re doing.”

One of the day’s most critical partners is the City of Bay City itself.

“Every year, they are down there with boots on the ground. They’re mowing, edging, running to get paint, bringing supplies — it’s incredible,” Clark says. “The city is an incredible partner on this project; we could not do this without them.”

Clark marveled that participation in the events has tripled, despite the COVID-19 pandemic precautions in recent years.

“The day and age we live in, there’s a lot of opportunity to not be together anymore,” Clark says. “You shop online, order dinner online, work online. There are plenty of things keeping us apart, and that’s why I love doing this so much. You have 300 to 400 people coming together; I think that’s good for human beings — human contact is good.”

Luczak echoed Clark’s enthusiasm.

“It’s about doing the extra,” she says. “It’s not just about the cleanup. It’s being with other community members. People meet new people, they talk to people they haven’t seen in years, and they make new friendships. It’s just a positive atmosphere to be in when you have so many people who want to come together and help.”
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