By Emmy Lay
It’s been said that Eatonville is the small town with a big heart, and no truer words could be used to describe the town on the morning of Sept. 9.
Although the community sometimes feels more like a large extended family, cheering for each other’s children at sporting events and arguing over who gets the last piece of apple pie, it showed what having a big heart really means at the annual 9-11 Day of Service and Remembrance.
Before they headed out on community service projects, over 200 volunteers of all ages crowded around the Eatonville High School flagpole as Boy Scout Troop 599 raised a flag bearing the names of all who lost their lives on that terrifying day 16 years ago. The National Anthem was sung by EHS sophomore Lexy Miller, and a poem and prayer were shared by Army veteran William Lewis.
Master of ceremonies Kirk Heinz welcomed the volunteers and introduced the keynote speaker, Ray Arment, a former Eatonville School District superintendent and an Army veteran.
Arment shared his thoughts on the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and made mention of the more recent natural disasters the country has faced.
“We stand here to selflessly serve our community and neighbors. Today it might be trimming, sweeping and painting. Tomorrow, though I pray not, it may be local disaster relief. Thank you, each and every one, for standing here today,” Arment said.
At the close of the brief flag-raising ceremony, the volunteers scrambled to their project sites and began the heartfelt work of giving back to their community. Safety lines and 4-square courts were painted at Eatonville Elementary School, while another crew led by town administrator Abby Gribi painted street curbs throughout town. Over a dozen trees were trimmed along Center Street, and the rain gardens at two locations were thoroughly weeded and cut back. The flower beds at the town's Visitor Center were cleaned up, and a group of local women armed with knitting needles and crochet hooks created soft, handmade stocking hats for local children in need.
The entire Eatonville High girls soccer participated under the leadership of coach Mark Phillips.
“I was hoping to keep them together, because it would be an amazing team-building exercise as they serve people other than themselves,” Phillips said of his team. “The girls are pretty excited about it. We’re just crazy about the opportunity to help.”
The team partnered with a handful of other citizens and tackled Mill Pond Park, from the skate park to the historic VanEaton Cabin and Tofu House. They weeded, raked, pruned, and at times pulled out stubborn weeds with great vengeance. A combined 80-plus hours of work went into the park project site alone.
Entire families cleaned Glacier View Park and the town cemetery, picking up trash, sweeping the stage and picnic areas, and trimming back overgrown trees and shrubs. Other work crews cleaned the planter areas at the post office, the community center and then American Legion Building, leaving large bags of clippings and weeds that once lined the town’s streets. At least eight overflowing truck loads of yard waste were hauled to the town’s compost site by police chief Brian Witt, with many more piles of debris waiting to be picked up later that day.
Two teams worked to move the remaining compost and woodchips from the old community garden site to the new site, filling pickup trucks and then unloading and moving by wheel barrow to begin a foundation for new garden boxes. The community garden donates fruit and vegetables throughout the community, and its organizers appreciated the manpower needed to take on such a task.
Other crews worked along the Bud Blancher Trail, as well as on the footpaths outside of Smallwood Park, widening the trails, trimming back blackberries, and cutting overgrown grass.
A free lunch was served at the Methodist church for all volunteers and their families. Homemade spaghetti sauce, fresh-baked cookies and desserts, as well as smiles from the kitchen staff greeted each community member as they came through the door. Some workers were covered in dirt and paint, and others were nursing blisters and removing blackberry thorns, but all were smiling from a morning of service and a spirit of community.
Project leader Amy Wilson said, “It was amazing to see so many members of our community come together and work so selflessly toward a common goal. Everywhere you turned, there were volunteers making a difference in the community we all love.”
Emmy Lay was a coordinator of the 9-11 Day of Service and Remembrance.