Earlier this week, many Westport moms and dads demonstrated to their teenagers how to pack a powerful sweat by helping others. Their conduct was contagious.
Together, 50 families pitched in on what they called "Big Sunday" to plant trees, shrubs and flowers, clean flower beds, clear lawns and much more at locations around town owned and operated by the non-profit Homes with Hope, which works to help the homeless in Westport, Weston and Wilton.
Continuing in the vein of generosity, this Saturday is the annual United States Postal Service Food Drive. Some of the food collected locally will go to Homes with Hope. All mail carriers ask is that you leave a bag of non-perishable food by your mailbox on Saturday.
That would be an easy task compared to what the families did on Big Sunday.
The families also painted, installed insulation, repaired broken furniture, cut up fallen limbs, and fixed a leaky roof and a hole in a wall at seven private homes through the auspices of the town's Department of Human Services.
Homes with Hope, headquartered at 40 Richmondville Avenue, is devoted to helping the homeless. For more than 25 years, it has provided food and shelter for the needy to help them achieve independent and self-sufficient lives. It houses 65 men, women and children per night in emergency shelters and two permanent supportive housing facilities.
Homes with Hope and the DHS partnered with two parent-child organizations - Westport chapters of the National Charity League, a mother-daughter philanthropic organization, and Service League of Boys ("SLOBS"), a parent-son community service club at Staples — to devote a day of community service to spruce up the housing communities.
At Gillespie Center, a homeless shelter, the volunteers laid railroad ties and shoveled wheelbarrows filled with donated mulch to cure the mud problem in the outdoor picnic area.
As volunteers painted the interior office space, Joyce Eldh applied insulation with a staple gun in the stifling-hot attic to transform the space into an attractive food pantry. Contractor Doug Chervin was on hand to donate his services installing wall board and shelving.
Meantime, Staples senior Olivia Kalb and her sister Madeleine, an 8th grader, gave out 40 lunch meals they had prepared for the center's clientele. Each contained a choice of ham, turkey, cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, water, iced tea, cookie, chips and an apple, all donated.
At the Saugatuck Apartments on Saugatuck Avenue, mothers Annmarie Massie and Beth Searl were joined by eighth graders Jack Massie and Grant Heller as they planted an adult-height cherry tree in full bloom.
It had been donated anonymously in memory of a former resident.
Matt Massie led a team of teens creating carefully manicured mulch beds and planting "tons of perennials" at the Saugatuck Apartments.
Nearby, seventh graders Avery Wallace, Emma Berry and Tova Byrne took turns planting impatiens in a bed prepared by Massie and his crew as Gina Berry and Nancy Wallace lowered a purple azalea into a sloping flower patch.
Many more volunteers performed similar tasks at the organization's other facilities around Westport.
Supplies were donated by local businesses, including Brandman Paint, Ace Hardware, Westport Hardware, Cathy Ross, Ring's End Darien, Gilbertie's, Izzo Nursery, Oliver Nursery, Daybreak Nursery, Geiger's, Stiles, Stew Leonard's, Fresh Market, Roly Poly, Stop and Shop, Terax and Athletic Shoe Factory, according to mother Suzanne Kalb.
The Helis Foundation in New Orleans also made a generous donation, she said.