On a cool, overcast day in early October, several rakes, some tools and more than a dozen pairs of helping hands resulted in a to-do list completed at the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois’ Camp Widjiwagan near Springfield, Illinois. Along with six of my Hanson colleagues, I was blessed to spend a couple of hours on Oct. 6, 2023, with one of those rakes in hand, helping to clean up several areas of this Girl Scouts facility, which gives so many young girls the opportunity to experience independence and fun in a safe environment of learning and growth.
Each spring and fall, United Way of Central Illinois encourages area businesses, groups and individuals to give back to their communities through the Day of Action. For the fall 2023 event, Hanson’s team of volunteers joined a group from Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Inc., to assist with several small projects at the camp, a 67-acre facility on Lake Springfield. We spent approximately two hours mulching two fire pits and a walking path, stacking firewood, washing windows, cleaning up rip-rap along the shoreline and dismantling several unused platform tent structures.
Coming full circle
Like many young girls who grew up in this area, I spent a night at Camp Widjiwagan as a Brownie scout in about second grade. It’s hard to remember much detail of that campout, but I can recall spiders in our sleeping quarters, unsuccessfully attempting to sneak an extra friend into our bunk and dodging poison ivy even as one fellow scout found her way into a patch.
As I helped my co-worker, Aviation Civil Designer Hannah Engel, EIT, freshen up two fire pits with a carpet of mulch, I realized that my afternoon as part of the Day of Action was bringing me full circle — from a scout to a working professional positively influenced by the scouts. I was privileged to be able to take some time to give back to an organization that shaped a part of my childhood and adulthood.
My Hanson colleagues also appreciated the opportunity to get away from their desks and do some good in the community.
“The fall 2023 Day of Action marked my inaugural experience as a United Way volunteer,” Hannah said. “The part I enjoyed most was being able to step away from my daily work routine, bask in the pleasant weather and engage in a tangible and useful activity. I believe it’s important for organizations like Hanson to allocate time and resources for community service, because it fosters community development and aligns with the Japanese concept of “ikigai,” which emphasizes finding purpose and meaning in our daily lives. By giving back to the community, organizations create a sense of purpose and fulfillment for their members, contributing to a more robust and interconnected society.”
Hanson Accountant Emilee Wenda valued the opportunity to join her colleagues in giving back. “Ithink it’s always good to remember that you don’t have to complete a big task to help someone out; even helping them tackle small things can make a big impact,” she said. “Plus, it’s important for Hanson and other organizations to spend time showing the community we are committed to improving the spaces for the people around us and helping where we are needed.”
A history of helping
Rob Waller, P.E., LEED AP®, an assistant vice president and Hanson’s land development practice lead, who coordinated Hanson’s team for the fall Day of Action and has participated for several years as a volunteer, said his favorite part of the day’s event was the physicality of the work. “It’s nice to get out and do something and quickly see improvement, knowing it’s one less thing that the organization will have to do themselves,” he said of helping to disassemble a group of platform tent structures. “And the amount of progress we make in just a few short hours is usually pretty impressive.”
Hanson has participated in the Day of Action since the inaugural event in October 2010, helping a variety of local organizations. On the first Day of Action in 2010, several Hanson employees assisted the Illinois Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross by organizing a storage room and re-roofing and painting a supply shed.
This fall Day of Action was Hanson Billing Coordinator Tiffany Bauman’s second time taking part in the volunteer event. Camp Widjiwagan is down the street from her home, and she said being able to help her own neighborhood was a huge plus. “Every little bit helps, and actions speak louder than words,” she said.
Jean Walter, Hanson’s senior administrative services and delivery coordinator, was a first timer at the event, like me. “I thank Rob for coordinating this opportunity,” she said. “I really enjoyed doing it. I could have stayed all day and plan to participate many more times to come.”
Inspiration in giving
One of the things Girl Scouts taught me was the importance of generosity to those around me, and I concur with Rob’s reflection on the day: “From my perspective, we are all fortunate here and in many of the professional organizations around the community. That’s not the case in many segments, and probably the most gratifying part of finishing up each one of these days is the appreciation observed and shared by the recipients. What seems so modest to us often is significant to them.
“I think everyone feels a bit inspired after each event and looks forward to the next.”
Mandy Bekoin is a business development support specialist at Hanson who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.