LEWISTON — They’re calling it the Church Day of Volunteering.
Five city churches have banded together, offering up about 100 volunteers, to tackle four projects on Saturday that the city hasn’t gotten to. Among them: fixing up segments of an old, wooded trail that could lead to Lewiston High School’s cross-country team hosting its own meets someday.
Right now, “home” meets are held at Leavitt Area High School in Turner or at Edward Little High School in Auburn.
“That’s not in the spirit of the rivalry,” said the Rev. Dave Bochtler of Grace Community Church, himself a former LHS football coach.
Bochtler and the Rev. Per Almquist, pastor at the Free Grace Presbyterian Church, approached the city with the volunteering idea months ago: They had the people; where did the city need help?
“Initially, they scratched their heads, ‘What is in it for you guys?’ Nothing,” Bochtler said. “Mostly what the city needs is just labor and we can provide that.”
The pastors met with Public Works staff twice to make a list of projects. Meanwhile, South Lewiston Baptist Church, First Assembly of God and Crossroads Baptist Church also signed on.
“We have lots of projects on the back burner,” said Michael Bernier, Public Works' district manager. The key, he said, was narrowing down ones that didn’t require complex skills or power tools.
Slated for Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.:
— Clearing away trees cut down around the portable classrooms at the Multi-Purpose Center to open that area up.
— Cutting and clearing growth at Simard-Payne Memorial Park.
“They want to cut the trees down on the Riverwalk side to enhance the view of the river,” Bernier said.
— Picking up litter along the Sunnyside Park trails.
— Clearing trees and brush in the overgrown trail sections at the high school.
“There was never a very defined (cross-country) trail,” Bernier said. After the volunteers get in there, it will still need culvert and gravel work, funding that has yet to be freed up.
Athletic Director Jason Fuller called the effort a step in the right direction.
“It’s a huge impact,” he said. “I’m very excited that Dave Bochtler is involved. I know what he stands for.”
Volunteers will meet at Lewiston High School at 9 a.m. before breaking into work groups. Bernier suggested bringing gloves, a hand saw, loppers or pruners and wearing long sleeves in case of ticks.
“It’s going to save a lot of time, but it’s actually going to help us get a jump on these projects,” Fuller said.
Volunteers, not only those from the five churches, are welcome, Bochtler said. “We’re hoping that this is just year one."
Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert said it was nice to see so many residents come forward at once.
“It’s the perfect example of community engagement,” he said. “That’s what makes us an All-America City — the people.”