GREENFIELD — Jake Anderson didn’t go to his job at Covance on Friday, but he wasn’t playing hooky. Instead, Anderson, along with more than a dozen others, was volunteering his time to help clear a local senior citizen’s overgrown yard.
The volunteers spent the majority of the day with their hands in the dirt while working with United Way of Hancock County as part of the nonprofit’s annual Day of Caring, a day dedicated to service projects across the community.
Even though the work they were doing was simple — trimming hedges, pulling weeds and mowing grass — the elbow grease made a huge difference to June Walker, a Greenfield resident whose recent health issues have kept her from getting her own hands dirty in her well-loved home garden.
Story continues below gallery
Walker, who laughingly declined to disclose her age but compared it to a long list of numbers in a phone book, used to be an avid gardener, but she said things had recently become so overgrown she could barely see her favorite plants.
“I love flowers, and I’ve kept this garden since I moved here 12 years ago,” Walker said. “This is the first year I couldn’t do anything out there. Getting old is just no fun.”
She added she requires a leg brace and has recently had heart surgery.
Walker might not have been able to pull weeds along with the volunteers, but her limited mobility didn’t stop her from hand-delivering cold water and sweet treats to the strangers who made their way to her property on North Apple Street on Friday.
“It’s just great (what the volunteers are doing),” Walker said. “I couldn’t believe it when they all kept showing up to help.”
Months ago, when Walker realized her garden was getting out of hand, she started to reach out to local landscaping companies, but they wanted more than she had to give. That’s when she gave Hancock County Senior Services a call for help.
So when the local nonprofit was contacted by United Way about possible projects for Day of Caring, representatives mentioned Walker’s yard could use the attention of area volunteers.
Walker, who was raised in Hancock County, loves to paint, attend church and spend time with her cat, Missy. She said that she is looking forward to being able to enjoy her garden again soon.
“I’m just so happy. I can’t wait to go outside with my flowers,” Walker said excitedly. “I’m going to sit in my sun chair, read the Bible and work on puzzles.”
Anderson said seeing the happiness on Walker’s face throughout the day was worth the hard work and manual labor.
“I enjoy helping people,” Anderson of McCordsville said. “It’s nice to give back to the community. I may be a little tired at the end of the day, but it will be rewarding to see this project finished.”
Jeannie Roberts, the volunteer engagement director at United Way, said Walker’s yard was one of two projects scheduled Friday.
The other project, with its own set of additional volunteers, included landscaping and painting at the Girl Scout House in Greenfield. Roberts added that other community projects would take place in the next couple of weeks across the county.
She said while the hard work of so many only affected a few, the benefit to Walker was immense.
“She was embarrassed about the state of her garden,” Roberts said. “Projects like these make a big impact. It feels wonderful to give her some relief, and now she can see her beautiful flowers.”
The relief was plain on Walker’s face, who mentioned several times how grateful she was to have so many in the community take the time to give her home a little more curb appeal.
“It means so much that someone is willing to help, and they won’t even let me pay them,” Walker said.
But she had a plan to help pay forward some of the goodwill she received Friday.
“Instead, I plan to donate some money locally,” she said.