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Volunteers turn out for Great Days of Service

In this 2012 file photo, Joyce Peeke, of Primerica, prepares to plant monkey grass at Annandale Village during Gwinnett's Great Days of Service.

In this 2012 file photo, Joyce Peeke, of Primerica, prepares to plant monkey grass at Annandale Village during Gwinnett's Great Days of Service.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Mike Turnage, of Primerica, center, works with his coworkers to construct a bocce ball court at Annandale Village in Suwanee Friday. On the county's largest volunteer day, Annandale Village is receiving volunteer help from Primerica to assist in painting, landscaping and small construction projects.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Steve Gwynn, of Primerica, loads a wheel barrow while working on a landscaping project behind the cafeteria building at Annandale Village in Suwanee Friday. On the county's largest volunteer day, Annandale Village received volunteer help from Primerica, in painting, landscaping and small construction projects Friday.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Bryce Bennett, of Primerica, paints a wall in the gymnasium at Annandale Village, on the county's largest volunteer day. Annandale Village in Suwanee is received volunteer help from Primerica, in painting, landscaping and small construction projects Friday.

SUWANEE -- Tracy Hawkins watched over his crew of 10 people while they installed a new bocce ball court Friday morning. They hammered boards creating the outer edges of the court, ripped up stingy roots and began filling the rectangle with granite dust.

But Hawkins wasn't building the court because he was a player or even knew how to play the game. It was for the Special Olympics bocce ball team at Annandale Village as part of the Gwinnett Great Days of Service.

"The internet is a great thing," he said about measurements and design. "We found the one (court) we liked and modeled ours around it."

Some of the group had come to the site Thursday to lay out markers, but Hawkins didn't mind -- it helped his crew work efficiently today.

"We had to come yesterday to mark a few things," he said. "But we're getting it done."

Hawkins and the group came with Primerica, where they work. In total, approximately 70 people from the office were on campus during Friday's Great Days of Service.

"Our employees love it," said Renee Carter, programs and event coordinator at the company. "At Primerica, we're big in the community and we do a lot of things, but this is a special thing we do every year. We budget for it, we make sure we have enough money for it and we want to leave the place knowing that we did something major."

When Primerica signed up to work with Annandale Village, it received a wish list for changes and improvements on the Suwanee campus.

"The organizations tell us what they want to have done and we do our best to do those things." Carter said.

This year, Annandale needed several things tackled beside a new bocce ball court. Team Primerica built sturdy art tables to replace the older ones, pruned bushes and shrubs in the gardens and along trails, painted the entire gymnasium and planted new greenery around campus.

"We always look forward to this day. They have so many multiple projects going on that will really impact the Village," said Annandale's Chief Development and Marketing Officer Keith Fenton. "We've had a relationship with Primerica for many years. They do a lot of stuff for us throughout the year ... and we're just blessed to have their evolvement with us.

"I think volunteerism is a culture for Primerica because they like giving back to their community. I think they get that personal, 'I feel good about what I'm doing.' I think they make it a priority for their employees to be engaged in volunteerism throughout the year."

While the nonprofit benefits from the generosity from the volunteers, Annandale's residents will be just as excited about the new additions.

"Many of their project benefit the villagers directly," said Annandale's Activities Coordinator Sandy Weaver. "The villagers are in the buildings right now, interacting with the volunteers who get to see their enthusiasm because its exciting -- they're changing their space."

After a long day of back breaking labor, Primerica will stay until the job is done because they want to, not because they need to.

"It's been a fun day," Carter said. "We plan it out so we can leave at 3:30 or 4, but we'll finish the projects until it's all done. By the end of the day, it should be a big, huge change."

Great Days of Service continues today.