Sod couch, earthen oven, all part of volunteer effort
An estimated 150 Comcast employees and volunteers descended upon Metzger Elementary School and the nearby Bethlehem House of Bread Saturday morning, planting seed beds, engaging in school cleanup projects, writing letters to military veterans and much more as part of the Tigard-area's 17th annual Comcast Cares Day Project.
"We encourage employees to volunteer all year round," said Miranda Belanger, a Comcast public relations specialist who noted that about 2,000 Comcast employees from Oregon and Southwest Washington participated in the day's activities.
The vegetable beds where employees planted seeds are part of the Supa Fresh Youth Farm, which dominates a large corner of the elementary school and provides food for about 250 low-income residents each month.
Supa Fresh Youth Farm started as a secret garden at Durham Education Center Alternative High School by Katrin Dougherty and Mia Barlett and has expanded throughout Tigard and surrounding areas.
In addition to a Supa Fresh Youth Farm garden at Metzger Elementary School, there's also one across the street at the Bethlehem House of Bread, which is a food pantry connected to Tigard United Methodist Church.
Dougherty praised Comcast volunteers for all their help over the years.
"Last year we did these (60) raised beds with Comcast," she said while employees planted fresh seeds for this year's crops.
She also said both the Tigard-Tualatin School District and the city of Tigard have helped the organization out extensively over the years.
The farm is part of the Oregon Human Development Corp., located in Tigard, and has trained underserved youth in the Tigard-Tualatin School District and Southeast Washington County since 2009.
Dougherty said she was happy with the day's turnout.
"It seems like we have a really great group," she said, noting that this is the sixth year Comcast has coordinated with them.
One of the more focal highlights of the day's work was the construction of a "sod couch" with volunteers and Comcast employees cutting and carrying sod from the school's playing field and forming it into a couch-like shape.
"We're hoping the sod couch will be a place where people can watch movies," said Dougherty, referring to Tigard's annual Movies in the Park series. While some of the couch was built with the sod with the dirt side up, a final piece of "upholstery" will consist of green grass facing up.
Just a few hundred feet from the sod couch, volunteers were busy building the foundation for a cob oven — made of clay, sand and straw.
"It's actually an ancient building technique," Dougherty said. "It's going to be like a wood-fire oven. So you can make pizza and bread."
That project will be dedicated on June 13.
One Comcast volunteer, who brought her family of five to the event, said she looks forward to volunteering each year.
"This is a family affair," said Adele Mitchell, who works in Tigard. "We put it on the calendar every year."
She has been attending the Comcast work day for the last 10 years.
"Besides giving back to the community, it's teaching your family and friends how important it is."
Mitchell said she plans to come back later to see how the sod couch turned out.
Meanwhile, inside Metzger Elementary, Comcast volunteers were busy making wrist bracelets out of paracord to send to deployed military troops.
Some wrote letters and prepared care packages as well, which will be forwarded to troops. The care packages were compliments of Comcast's Operation Gratitude
At the same time, volunteers were busy scooping up bags of leaves in the back of the school. Helping out with the school refurbishing efforts was Marc Farrar, external affairs vice president for Comcast, who said volunteers were working on close to a dozen projects at the school.
"We try to give a lot of different options for adults and kids," he said. "Old and young, there's plenty to do."
In the last 15 years, Comcast has partnered with 20 to 25 schools on different refurbishing projects, Farrar said.
"The ways we can give back to the community on a day like this is just awesome," he said.