Warrensburg, Missouri: A Day of Caring

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Main Street programs across the nation are fortunate to have talented, enthusiastic board members who care about their downtowns and their communities. They are the backbone and the inspiration of many programs, and Warrensburg Main Street (WMS) is no exception.

Rhonda Gelbach, owner of a bed and breakfast in downtown Warrensburg and a WMS board member, was inspired by one of her guests, Mike Gasperini, who had come from Indiana to interview for a local job.  He told her all about his town’s “Day of Caring” and the ways it brought members of the community together to make a tremendous impact on their town. Rhonda put together a meeting with me; Jason Elkins, WMS Board President; and Mike to find out how his community implemented its program. Jason Elkins took down the details, enlisted help, and turned this great idea into a reality.

Warrensburg’s first “A Day of Caring” focused on cleaning up and beautifying a specific section of the downtown. During the event, we saw volunteers come together to dramatically improve one of the main arteries into Warrensburg—the Union Pacific (UP) rail line just north of the train depot. Weeds had grown through the gravel in the alley and the parking lot along the backs of the buildings. The buildings were in dire need of new windows, paint, and removal of vines that were growing up the walls. Unsightly HVAC units needed to be hidden, while the gutters and drainage pipes required painting. The wall that separated the parking area in the alley and the railroad tracks also needed painting.

To help pay for the day, WMS raised $30,000 in donations, in addition to $15,000 from Union Pacific, building owners, and University of Central Missouri. The funds were used to purchase building materials, paint, flowers, and other plants. All told, the project:

  • Engaged more than 75 volunteers;
  • Logged more than 650 volunteer hours;
  • Involved 30 partners from across the city;
  • Planted 75 shrubs and flowers;
  • Applied 88 gallon of paint and stain to buildings and walls; and
  • Laid down brick sidewalks.

Putting a new face on the area near the train depot took just one day as Warrensburg Main Street teamed up with the city, Main Street businesses, other organizations, and volunteers to transform the blighted area into one the community now views with pride. Even though much preliminary work went into the project such as buildings being photographed, measured and primed, the bulk of the work took place on the “Day of Caring.”

SOTW_3-18-13_DayofCaring_PosterWe had crews that painted, carpenters that built fencing around HVAC units, landscapers that built brick sidewalks and planted shrubs and flowers, and crews that cooked and served a noon meal to all of the volunteers. The food was donated by local restaurants and private citizens. One of our partners, the University of Central Missouri sent maintenance crews and lots of student volunteers who did everything from hauling rock to painting walls and picking up trash. The City of Warrensburg also worked tirelessly to prepare for the day by clearing areas for planting. The mayor, city manager and council members joined in and volunteered for the day.

Each volunteer received a neon bright “Warrensburg Main Street A Day of Caring” T-shirt after signing a release form to participate. All that day, we watched a sea of brightly colored shirts buzzing about and working as industriously as a colony of bees. The volunteers also signed a poster that bears the WMS Day of Caring logo and now hangs proudly in the Warrensburg Main Street office.  It was truly an effort of cooperation from all areas.

When the work was complete (for the most part), the celebration began at a local pizza and pub. Volunteers received awards for Dirtiest T-Shirt, the First Aid Award, Dirtiest Fingernails, and Hardest Worker. A special award went to the mayor for putting his life on the line. While he was painting a wall that separates the railroad tracks and a parking lot, the UP train went by and called our local police to ask if we knew that people were working too close to the tracks. The local police showed up a short while later to ask the mayor to leave the railroad tracks.

“A Day of Caring” was a tremendously successful undertaking for our community, sprucing up an unsightly area and putting a spark in our downtown. The City of Warrensburg, the University and community at large all collaborated in a true team effort. Warrensburg Main Street plans to make this an annual event in hopes to include even more volunteers each year and expand our projects.

Enjoy this great video as Warrensburg volunteers come together to show how much they care about their hometown and its Main Street.