“After cutting back all the spent greenery, we then pulled off every leaf and pulled out the weeds,” said LeAnn Carrillo, the senior program director for family and sports at the Central YMCA. “It was hard work, but fun with the Y members!”
This event was just the beginning of the Central YMCA’S Togetherhood program, a nationwide effort to identify and lead community improvement projects. Each program is unique to the needs of the local community, and the volunteers themselves decide which projects to pursue.
Togetherhood started in 2016 as a way to unite community members from all walks of life to address local issues that they can all agree on.
Carrillo is also staff adviser to the Togetherhood volunteers in San Jose. It is her job to make sure every volunteer has the tools necessary to follow through on the task at hand.
In this first year of the program, she said, the Central YMCA plans to initiate five more volunteer events, in March, May, July, September and November.
The next Togetherhood meeting will be in February at the Central YMCA. Though a date has yet to be set, Carrillo sent out a poll to past volunteers letting them chose the days for future meetings.
In February past and future volunteers will discuss key takeaways from the Rose Garden project at the next meeting, as well as determining the project focus for March.
“We picked this last project about four weeks before the event date, so it took us about a month to get our first volunteer group,” said Carrillo. “The Togetherhood group of volunteers decides what volunteer project they want to do and makes it happen.”
Carrillo drew in the first set of volunteers for the program through information booths that staff set up at the front desk of the Central YMCA on The Alameda.
San Jose resident Margaret Keeney and her family had volunteered at the church they attend in South San Jose. Keeney said they saw the Rose Garden project as an opportunity to make a difference in their own neighborhood.
“The Rose Garden project was great even though it was a wet and windy Saturday morning,” she said. “It was a worthwhile experience, and I look forward to volunteering in March.”
Though the YMCA has countless other Togetherhood programs around the country, Carrillo said the diversity of the Central YMCA volunteers makes their program stand out from the rest.
“There is just a mixture of individuals from all over San Jose participating in this effort,” she said. “Some new volunteers may get nervous when they hop onboard, but once they look around and see that they are surrounded by peers, it makes working together so much easier.”
Community members interested in volunteering can contact Carrillo at LeAnn.Carrillo@ymcasv.org.
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