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Jim Hemig: A community love-fest

Jim Hemig
Jim Hemig Publisher The Union
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

I’ve never seen as many people so happy to clean up trash than I did last weekend.

Saturday was the second annual Random Acts of Kindness Event, or RAKE for short. Last year the event included a random smattering of good deeds such as giving blood, washing windows, pumping gas, chopping firewood and handing out flowers in Nevada City (which was the job I snatched up) among many other acts of kindness.

Roughly 160 people provided the effort and raised about $8,000 for the community charitable nonprofit, Anew Day.

A small group wanted to extend last year’s event and include a community-wide cleanup effort this year. Fellow organizers; Lori Nunnink-Taylor, Mike Bratton, Marty Lombardi, The Union’s Audience Development Manager Elizabeth Baldwin and I helped bring this to light.

Community pride above all else is why we all work together. Next year the Random Acts of Kindness Event will be back and I’ll bet we can get even more people involved. Will you join us?

The end result was more than 300 people formed into 24 teams to clean up selected roadways, parks, schools and scour western Nevada County. Yellow RAKE T-shirts were seen everywhere. My team filled up an entire dumpster from the trash we collected from the Glenbrook Basin.

The best part of this year’s RAKE was the incredible diversity helping to clean up our community. City council members, county board of supervisors, police chiefs, nonprofit directors, school teachers, contractors, realtors, business leaders, young people, young at heart and even a team of homeless folks from Hospitality House. All ends of the community spectrum, and everyone in between, were represented.

On my team, we had one of the founding members of the local Tea Party picking up trash with the leader of last year’s medicinal marijuana Measure S initiative. We also had the new executive director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association, my Dancing with Our Stars professional partner, a fellow chamber of commerce board member, a long lost friend I used to work with in Sacramento over 20 years ago and several folks from The Union on my team.

RAKE is a fundraiser for Anew Day. Judging by the turnout, the community supports this nonprofit. And I’m happy they do. When I asked for an example of what Anew Day does, Executive Director Lori Nunnink-Taylor emailed me this:

“When we opened our doors in 2006, our mission at Anew Day was to provide healing and hope for those who are hurting. From the young woman who felt hopeless and was on the brink of suicide, but in a moment of clarity, reached for the phone and found hope on the other end. From the couple struggling to piece the remnants of their marriage back together, but instead found a way to fall in love with each other all over again. From the teenage boy who’d endured years of bullying at the hands of his peers, but learned to find value in himself rather than those around him. From the widow whose life all but ended when her precious husband breathed his last breath, but found a place where she could begin to heal. From the blended family whose constant turmoil threatened to destroy them, but learned to appreciate and accept one another. Anew Day provides help to thousands in our community.”

Over 90 percent of Anew Day’s services are offered free of charge. They help an average of 230 people per month. That’s a lot of support from a small group of three paid staffers, two interns and 27 trained volunteer counselors. This year’s RAKE brought in almost $12,000 in donations that will help the nonprofit to continue their efforts.

After the two-hour cleanup Saturday morning, everyone met for a BBQ lunch. I was giddy with delight watching the group with bright yellow shirts high-fiving, hugging and sharing stories of trash collected while enjoying a hot dog and soda. This community love-fest reminded me of how it all started.

Melissa Fowlkes, a third-grade teacher at Scotten Elementary School, took me on a trash tour of western Nevada County in May 2014. We couldn’t stop talking about the possibility of a community cleanup. So when adding the cleanup to the RAKE was discussed, Melissa was the first person I asked to help support the effort. It sure felt good closing the circle with her on this important community service.

So, what’s next? Keep the community clean. It’s that simple and the benefits are endless.

Community pride above all else is why we all work together. Next year the Random Acts of Kindness Event will be back and I’ll bet we can get even more people involved. Will you join us?

To contact Publisher Jim Hemig, email jhemig@theunion.com or call 530-477-4299.


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