Great Days of Service volunteers dig in

LAWRENCEVILLE - Clients from the Hi-Hope Service Center in Lawrenceville got their hands dirty Friday morning as they helped plant shrubs at the J.M. Tull YMCA in Lawrenceville.

The Hi-Hope Center, part of the Gwinnett County Association for Retarded Citizens Inc., is a nonprofit organization that offers training services for adults with developmental disabilities in Gwinnett County.

Hi-Hope clients Marty Passoff, Lisa Black and Paul Irving arrived at the YMCA about 9:30 a.m. Friday to begin planting Leyland Cypress and Creeping Gardenia to create a needed buffer between two of the YMCA's soccer fields.

Gail Zorn, campus horticulturalist at Gwinnett Technical College, and others from the Lawrenceville college helped dig the holes and prepare the land for the plants the clients would be planting.

"We're planting these (shrubs) to address the erosion problem between the two fields," said Zorn.

The planting was a community service project that was part of this weekend's Great Days of Service, a communitywide effort between local businesses and agencies and The Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services.

Vicki Proano, a horticulture grounds crew member with Gwinnett Technical College, helped the Hi-Hope clients with the planting, instructing them to loosen the roots of the plants before planting and how to properly cover the plants once in the ground.

Proano said she got involved with GDOS because she wanted to give back to the community.

"I wanted to be a part of helping others," she said.

All the Hi-Hope clients said although they got dirty they enjoyed participating in the morning service activities.

"My pants are all dirty," Passoff said. "This was fun."

Damien Anderson, a employment support technician for the Hi-Hope Center, accompanied, supervised and helped the Hi-Hope planters.

He said his clients participate in many community service projects throughout the community on all the time.

"We just fit right in here," Anderson said. "We do this on a regular basis."

Teresa Welborn, the on-site coordinator for the YMCA, said she appreciates the help from the Hi-Hope Center and all the GDOS volunteers.

"Without these volunteers we couldn't do what we do every day," she said.

The Friday and Saturday Great Days of Service tended to more than 150 projects. Organizers expected more than 70,000 people to participate.