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Hundreds of volunteers tackle 60 projects countywide
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Saturday was a great day for service.

A small army of more than 800 volunteers fanned out across Hall County on a crisp, clear morning to scrub, paint, saw, assemble, cook and otherwise lend their skills and sweat to nonprofit agencies, churches and others in the third annual Great Day of Service.

The initiative was organized by Gainesville’s First United Methodist Church, with dual goals of fostering community outreach and fellowship. It involved more than 60 volunteer projects, from baking cookies for public safety workers and installing basketball goals to sewing gowns for hospice patients.

"It has not only brought us in touch with the our community, but with each other," said Judy Miller, who helped clean gutters, paint and tend to shrubbery outside the Gainesville Care Center. "It’s just a wonderful opportunity to give of ourselves."

Great Day of Service co-chairwoman Sharon Farkas said planning for the event began in July. The church had no problems persuading people to sign on for service.

"I think people like to help each other, especially this year, with the economy like is," Farkas said. "People really want to reach out and do what they can for the community."

At Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church near Gillsville, Ricky Smith helped assemble playground equipment, one of 11 carpentry projects on the event’s to-do list.

"This is not only to help others, but to help the helpers," Smith said. "To get the helpers to realize what they’re capable of doing and build better relationships between the helpers and the ones who need help."

"It’s just improving relationships all the way around," Smith said. "The main objective is improving the relationship with God and having people do something in return for what they’ve got."

In the backyard of Randy’s House, a home for young adults with physical limitations, a power saw buzzed as volunteers built a new wheelchair ramp leading to raised planters made from crossties. The project will help ease stormwater drainage problems while giving the residents a new garden to tend to, volunteer Richard Shaw said.

"I think this is a great project for people who are in need and have some means to help but don’t have the knowledge and know-how to do it," Shaw said. "It’s that spirit of volunteerism and giving of your time."

At the Guest House, an adult day health services agency, volunteers pressure-washed sidewalks, painted and landscaped.

"We have been so fortunate to have them here all three years," said Guest House Executive Director Jocelyn Pryor. "They get done in half a day what it would take us a couple of weeks to do."

Pryor said the day also educates volunteers about local service organizations.

Miller agreed.

"I’ve been here since 1986 and there are some places on the list I never knew existed," Miller said.

At the Hall County Humane Society, Tharpe Ward helped sort through and wash old pet carriers as volunteers cleaned out storage buildings. He took the day off from his restaurant business to pitch in.

"It’s just a great day for the Lord," Ward said.

By the end of the day Saturday, thousands of hours had been worked, and dozens of locations in Hall County were cleaner, tidier and better for it.

"It’s just a feel-good kind of day," Great Day of Service Co-Chair Cherry Valentine said.