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Neighbors pitch in to beautify West Linn

Seniors, veterans get a helping hand from local volunteers during annual cleanup


by: JORDY BYRD  - Fred Sickert volunteered with Neighbors Helping Neighbors for the first time this year. He opted for heavy machinery while trimming overgrown hedges.Mapleton Drive is the type of picturesque neighborhood you come to expect in West Linn. The traffic is slow, the trees are tall, the hedges are green and on most days — life is quiet.

But on Saturday, Sept. 15, the neighborhood was anything but quiet. The sound of chainsaws and wheelbarrow tires plowing through gravel and squeaking across grass could be heard in the air as hundreds of busy hands volunteered with the fourth annual Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors is a community effort and city of West Linn-sponsored event to help citizens in need, who are older than 70 years old, or with limited mobility. Five houses on Mapleton Drive received aid from the volunteers this year.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors began in 2008 as a joint collaboration between the city and neighborhood associations. Since then, a steering committee was formed and momentum for the event continues to grow.

“At one time this street was full of kids,” said Jeane Jones, 86. “It’s mostly older people now, but we get new babies every day.”

Jones has lived in West Linn, in the same home on Mapleton Drive, for 53 years. Her sprawling property meets the edge of Mary S. Young State Park. Her lawn and gardens are filled with seashells, ponds and statues of Buddha. This is the third year she’s received help from Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

“I look forward to them coming every year,” Jones said. “I even recognize some of them. ... I would never be able to have done it all on my own. These kids just work like little devils.”

Volunteers like West Linn resident Kelly Neumeier and Cub Scout Pack 149 helped trim Jones’ hedges, prune apple trees and gather leaves from her “special rock garden.”

“This is our first year volunteering,” Neumeier said, referring to the Cub Scout troop her and her husband volunteer with. “We really enjoy getting out in the community and doing service.”

Eight Cub Scouts — some as young as second grade — and their parents crouched on all fours and rummaged through fallen leaves and debris. Neumeier said she enjoyed Neighbors Helping Neighbors because it gave her the opportunity to get to know her neighbors, work with other people and “get beyond oneself.”

“Citizenship is one of our core values,” she said. “This is exactly what we’re all about.”

by: JORDY BYRD  - Kogen Brown, 7, of West Linn and Cup Scout Pack 149 volunteers with Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

Just down the street on Mapleton Drive, Bob Rowning, 75, and his wife received help from about 20 volunteers. Rowning has lived in West Linn for 49 years. This is the second year they have received help from Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

“Between being almost blind and having a leg that’s not in too good of shape, the help has been pretty nice,” he said, parading his little dog around the yard. “The hedges grow like mad; it’s thick like a jungle.”

Volunteers like West Linn resident Fred Sickert shoveled through coffee-colored mounts of dirt, pruned rosebushes and trimmed back 30-foot tall hedges. Sickert has lived in West Linn for 16 years. Recently retired, Sickert said it was the perfect time for him to volunteer.

“I’m out here to meet new people and help my neighbors,” he said. “I’m an old Boy Scout and Navy veteran, so service isn’t new to me. ... I signed up for Neighbors Helping Neighbors because I was hoping to help veterans.”

Kari Neikes and her family of five were also first-time volunteers. The family read about the event in the West Linn High School bulletin.

“This was the kids’ first service project and they did very well,” Neikes said. “It’s a good feeling to get out there and do it. I think it was good first step toward volunteer work. It definitely kicked up that volunteer spirit in the family.”

by: JORDY BYRD  - Bryan Nicholson, 4, of West Linn brought his own mini yard tools for Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

Behind the scenes

Last year, volunteers removed enough volume to cover a football field. That amount equates to 243 cubic yards of leaves, dirt, weeds, blackberry bushes and tree branches. This year, volunteers removed 324 cubic yards of lawn debris.

The removal is largely thanks to West Linn Refuse & Recycling Inc. This year — as the business has in years past — the company donated five trucks to the Neighbors Helping Neighbors cause.

“I’m shocked by that number,” said Crystal Foster, office manager with West Linn Refuse & Recycling Inc. “This was our biggest year ever.”

Foster and eight other employees donated their time at the event. Their day started at 6 a.m. with dropping off refuse containers and ended at 3:30 p.m. after the last truck left.

“This is a pretty large-scale operation and we’re happy to do it,” Foster said. “We love to be there helping the community that helps us.”

There are still a lot of people who have lived here for decades — people in their 80s — and there’s a lot of people who have mobility issues that just need a little bit of help every year, said Alex Kachirisky, project manger with Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

Kachirisky, along with volunteer coordinators Amy Biancardi and Cody Towsey speared the event.

Last year, about 300 volunteers donated their time at 35 different houses. This year, more than 200 volunteers donated time at 20 different houses. Everyone from church groups to sports teams to businesses to Cub Scouts sign up to volunteer.

“Little by little we are growing it each year,” Kachirisky said. “It’s always amazing at how much work is actually done in short period of time.”

The steering committee is hoping to grow by leaps and bounds in upcoming years. Right now, the group is analyzing expansion options.

“We are trying to figure out how to be more effective, how can we touch more lives,” Kachirisky said. “Everywhere there’s someone that needs help.”

For more information about Neighbors Helping Nieghbors, call 503-723-2525 or visit westlinnoregon.gov/nhn.

by: JORDY BYRD  - Brenda Werrett of West Linn pulls weeds out of a flowerbed. This was her third year volunteering with Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

by: JORDY BYRD  - Bob Rowning, 75, offered juice and cookies to volunteers from Neighbors Helping Neighbors. Volunteers helped prune rose bushes, trim back hedges and more for Rowning and his wife.

by: JORDY BYRD - Jeane Jones, 86, planted this bamboo 20 years ago. This is the third year volunteers from Neighbors Helping Neighbors have helped at her home.