As our days here in Tucson quickly dwindle we are still leaving our mark on the community that we’ve called home for the last two months. On Sunday all of our hard work and planning finally came together in the execution of an amazing Day of Service. The team was up at 7:30 a.m. to load all of the donations we’d collected, along with all of the cleaning and painting supplies in our vehicles. With the help of Sun 1’s team leader Jordan we were able to get everything to the park in one trip and began setting things up around 8:00. By 10:00 we’d gotten booths set up for each of the sponsoring organizations, laid out several trash bags under the railings we were painting, and organized the snacks (an awfully in-depth process taken on by Ian and I which included a full cardboard display for the array of granola bars). We also were fortunate enough to have the Sheriff’s Department let us borrow their orange Hummer with an amazing sound system to play a four-hour mix that Ian worked tirelessly on the day before.
The turnout included all of Sun 1, several community volunteers, and people from each of our partnering organization. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people came out, around 30 in total and the amount of work we got done was impressive. We spent all morning picking up trash from the wash (including six shopping carts), painting over graffiti, pulling up buffle grass (which is an invasive species in the Tucson area), and painting the railing which separates the wash and the park trail. Around noon we took a break for lunch: a huge amount of pizza donated by a local pizza place and Tucson’s Sheriff’s Department.
After everyone was fed we all gathered to hear sponsors from Open Inn and Youth On Their Own (the two organizations for which we acquired donations) speak about what their groups do for the Tucson community. We were also fortunate enough to have Michael (a student involved with Youth On Their Own) share his story with us. It was so touching to hear his story of such loss and how Youth On Their Own helped him back onto a path of promise. He shared with us that he has found his life goals through the program and now wants to be a part of the Arizona Symphony after attending college at the University of Arizona as a music major. The impact of his journey made me realize just who we were helping with all of our donations and how far our help will hopefully reach.
At the end of the day we had made 36 care packages for homeless youth in the area and managed to clean up the vast majority of the park. I left feeling the accomplishment of what we did for the community and was relived at how smoothly it had all gone.
Monday started with another early morning. We were out the door by 7 a.m. and headed to Saguaro National Park East to help out with the 2010 cactus census. We met up with three supervisors from the Parks Department, split into three groups, and spent the morning counting Saguaro cacti. The groups spread out over a predetermined plot and proceeded to flag each Saguaro we came across. We determined each cacti’s height, how many bird holes it had, it’s number of arms, and any other notable characteristics. Ian, Shiny, Chris (our awesome supervisor) and I named each one of our cacti with ridiculous names, ranging from Betty to Montezuma. Overall, even despite the overcast weather and the cold (by Tucson standards) the ISP was a lot of fun.
With only a little over a week left in Tucson things are still going well. We are proud of the work we’ve done here, from taxes to Community Unity Day, and are already starting to feel the sadness that comes with the end of each project.
You can follow Sarah and the rest of the Water 4 AmeriCorps NCCC team on their service adventures at their Water Log blog.