Volunteer Week 2024

Our annual gathering of volunteers kicked off last Thursday. Actually, this year we had some pre-kickoff help from the NCIS crew. Neighborhood Catholics in Service, a group of 22 middle-school […]

Our annual gathering of volunteers kicked off last Thursday. Actually, this year we had some pre-kickoff help from the NCIS crew. Neighborhood Catholics in Service, a group of 22 middle-school aged youth and their 10 adult and high school-aged chaperons, came last Tuesday. NCIS has been coming to St. Anthony’s for a number of years, sharing their efforts with us for one day during their week of service each summer. This year they chose the hottest day of the summer so far. Still, they managed to haul firewood up to the Residents’ balcony (at least until they came upon a honeybee nest), weeded the gardens along the east side of the Solanus Center, picked up sticks on the trails, deep-cleaned the suites that would be used during Volunteer Week, and cleaned the windows and blinds in the Solanus Center.

Then last Thursday, the regular crew rolled in. Almost sixty volunteers were here over the course of the week to help us do a LOT of work. They come from far and wide, and from just down the street, to help us with projects inside the house and on the grounds. Some were seasoned veterans, others were here for the first time. Some help for a few hours, some for a couple of days, but all of their efforts added up to a very productive week.

Weather is always a factor during Volunteer Week, and this year was no different. Except instead of dealing with extreme heat and humidity that we usually deal with in late July, we had significant rain both Friday and Saturday. The benefit of the rain was more folks were available to work inside on a loooooong list of housekeeping chores: deep-cleaning all the bedrooms (including lamp shades, desk/dresser drawers and window blinds), meeting rooms and St. Francis Chapel; cleaning and restocking all the literature holders in the bedrooms; washing all the windows (inside and out) and cleaning the window tracks; cleaning ceiling, floor and desk fans throughout the building; washing woodwork (including doors, transoms and baseboards) in the old wing; scrubbing out all the waste baskets and recycling receptacles in the meeting rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms; washing the steel doors on the bedrooms in the new wing; painting the doors and door frames on the Solanus Center; moving the furniture out of the Solanus Center and Hesse Lounge so the carpets could be shampooed, and moving it all back in when the carpet was dry; cleaning the partitions and doors in all the public restrooms and shower rooms; cleaning the exhaust fans in the public bathrooms; washing all the chairs in the main chapel and pews in the cloister hall; and vacuuming upholstered furniture in the meeting rooms and the pillows in the Pillow Room. As the overnight guests began to filter out, all their rooms also needed to be cleaned and readied for the groups arriving later this week. Needless to say, Jain and Jackie H were thrilled to have all that help!

When it wasn’t raining, there were the customary outdoor activities as well: weeding gardens; planting annuals; deadheading flowers; thinning out plants from flower gardens; pulling grass and weeds from under young pine trees and replacing them with mulch; raking and refreshing the gravel under swings; mowing grass; clearing weeds from cracks in the pavement and from the basketball court; trimming hedges; cleaning the gazebo; and cleaning up logging debris in the woods by the screen house and fire pit. Several boys from Marathon High School were a big help to JustBob, hauling dirt into Mary’s Courtyard to add around Mary’s pedestal so that rain water stops leaking into the boiler room below. They also flexed their muscles moving furniture inside.

One of the unique outdoor projects on this year’s list has been in the planning for months. Eco-spirituality has been the goal of St Anthony’s for quite some time. We have cultivated a prairie garden in the front yard near the woods, and let other areas of the yard return to their natural state. Now we wanted to intentionally add pollinator habitats to our ground. Last fall, JustBob prepped an area north of the building, clearing away debris left after the logging and buckthorn removal, leveling the ground and seeding it with wildflower seeds for our “dry” habitat. We also planned for a “wet” habitat in the southwest corner of the front yard where it is often too wet to cut grass. Then in March, we applied to the Xerces Society for a grant to help us add the pollinator garden. We were notified in April we had been approved for one pollinator kit of 500 plants native to this area of Wisconsin, all conducive to pollinators. We asked for a mix of plants, half of which were suitable for a dry area and half for a wet area, and the Xerces Society was more than happy to adjust. We added stakes to identify the plants so the public can come and learn about what we are doing while they enjoy the beauty of the plants and pollinators.

Two more special outdoor projects are part of our reforestation plan. More of the area north of the building and west of the pond had been cleared of buckthorn and tree stumps last year. Now we needed to clean up the remaining debris and level that area so JustBob can spread grass seed later this year. Then next year, we will plant pine tree seedlings in the area. Last fall, JustBob also gathered hundreds of acorns from the grounds and prepped them for planting this summer. That’s not quite as simple as it sounds, nor as easy as the squirrels make it look. Once gathered, the acorns had to be soaked for a specified time, then dried, then stored in plastic bags down in one of our root cellars over winter. JustBob also built a nursery cage for the potential seedlings so critters don’t dig up the acorns or chew off the new trees when they sprout. This week, a couple of volunteers took each of the acorns and carefully planted them deep into dirt-filled starter trays in the nursery. Hopefully, the hundreds of acorns will successfully yield a few dozen oak seedlings to replant on our grounds in a few years. Both of these projects as well as our Earth Day planting of swamp oaks were all funded by a grant from the USDA to help us to rehabilitate the areas where we removed the buckthorn, an extremely invasive species that had taken over large areas in our woods.

One indoor project was to build a ramp (like those in the corners of the cloister hall) in the center of the north hall to make the large meeting room there accessible. Travis was the foreman on this project, with some help from Fred, one of the team of guys here from Marathon High School.

Of course, none of this would happen if not for the efforts of the staff and a few volunteers behind the scene for months to plan the week, prepare the task wish list, connect with volunteers, make sure all the necessary supplies are available, and then during the week coordinate assignments, take pictures, and answer questions to keep everything moving smoothly. We were blessed with many new volunteers this year, too, so there was also a need for ongoing orientation and direction until they get into the swing of things. And then there is also feeding this hungry crew, so Kim appreciates the volunteer help she got to prep and set up for meals, put food away afterwards and do dishes.

To paraphrase the Evangelist John, there were undoubtedly many other things that volunteers did this past week, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the Chronicles that would be written (or we might just crash our website).

We are truly blessed! For all the staff and volunteers who offered their gifts of time and talent to make this another successful and productive Volunteer Week, we say Deo Gratias!

P.S. If you haven’t checked out the photos from Volunteer Week, go to our Facebook page and scroll back through our timeline.

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