Thousands of Mid-Columbia volunteers will be pulling weeds, painting park benches, fixing fences, even re-roofing public restrooms from the Tri-Cities to Grandview today.
Their work is part of the Day of Service begun three years ago by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
Originally it was a way for members of the church to remember those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and who lost their lives in the service of their country, said Lowell Barbar, regional public relations director for the LDS church.
"It's since grown and now involves people from throughout the community, not just our church," Barbar said.
About 3,000 volunteers from the church and the community participated last year and they're anticipating about that number again.
"We are so thankful we cannot express it enough," said Terry Walsh, executive director of employee and community relations for Kennewick.
"In the past six or seven years we've had fewer resources and fewer park maintenance workers, and we simply would not have the opportunity to complete these projects without their help," she said.
"We ask for a lot and they give a lot," Walsh said.
Day of Service chairmen asked city officials throughout the region for their wishlists for projects.
"We can't do everything they ask for, but we do our best," said John Darrington, former Richland city manager, who is in charge of projects at Lawrence Scott Park in Kennewick and Badger Mountain Park in Richland.
"I admire how professional they are and how meticulous a group. They come in, swarm over a project, do their job and, when they leave, you'd never know they'd been there except for how much better things look," said Rick Terway, Pasco's administration and community services director.
Replacing broken and graffiti-tagged fencing along Road 84 is on the schedule for Pasco.
"These are things we'd get to somehow, but not at this magnitude so that it turns into a one-day project," Terway said.
The church, with about 27,500 members in the Tri-Cities, Hermiston and Walla Walla area, welcomes anyone who wants to lend a hand.
"Students at Tri-City Prep have already signed up," said Bill Henry, president of the Pasco stake, one of five stakes in the Tri-Cities.
Some projects, such as re-roofing restrooms, will be tackled by general contractors who are donating their time and tools. Others jobs, such as spreading bark, picking up trash and painting, only require a pair of gloves and a willingness to get dirty.
"As we went over our list we tried to find things to involve the kids too, like planting," Walsh said.
Barber said the volunteer pool includes entire families.
"As adults and parents we like to take this opportunity to teach our children to become involved in the community," said Barber.
A few projects already have been completed.
"We've done clean up at the Whitman Mission and some projects for the Umatilla School District, the Umatilla Senior Center and the Umatilla Museum with help from the Lions Club, the Corps of Engineers, the city of Umatilla and the Umatilla tribe," said Carol Hansen, the multi-stake director of public affairs for the Tri-City area.
Most of the projects begin at 8 a.m. and go until noon. Projects in Prosser and Grandview begin at 9 a.m.
For more information on the Day of Service projects or to volunteer, call Carol Hansen, 586-7401, 947-0821; Lowell Barber, 628-3664, 312-9180; or Richard Meyer, 783-6480, 430-5623.