Volunteers transform side yard at Boys & Girls Club

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AUBURN — More than 30 volunteers spent Wednesday refurbishing the side yard of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine’s Auburn-Lewiston Clubhouse on Second Street.

By evening, the once bland lot peppered with graffiti tags on two sides had two patios, painted walls, newly-assembled picnic tables and loam — all thanks to volunteers from Kohl’s Department Store, the Auburn Police Department and Boys & Girls Club members and staff. The effort was part of the first Kohl’s  National Volunteers Go Green Event in celebration of National Volunteer Week and the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” said Mary Buckelew, assistant store manager for Kohl’s. “For those of us who dream of being multimillion dollar philanthropists, this is one way of doing it.”

Associates for the Auburn Kohl’s joined tens of thousands of their fellow associates nationwide this month who are spending at least three hours supporting youth-serving nonprofit organizations by participating in environmentally-based activities. The company is then matching local efforts with corporate grants, donating $2 million to nonprofits nationwide.

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Known as the “A-Team,” this volunteer program is part of Kohl’s overall philanthropic platform, Kohl’s Cares for Kids, which is committed to supporting children’s health and education initiatives nationwide. Since 2000, Kohl’s has raised more than $126 million through its Kohl’s Cares for Kids program.

“We’ve partnered with Kohl’s before and they’re such an awesome team,” said Liz Allen, volunteer coordinator for the Auburn Police Department. “This was just the perfect event. The perfect project.”

Thanks to last year’s $50,000 grant from Stoneyfield Yogurt and KaBoom, the Auburn after-school program purchased materials to revamp the play space, but needed manpower to complete the project. The Kohl’s Go Green Event brought with it not only dozens of volunteers from the local store, but even more from the Auburn Police Department. The project also included a $1,000 grant to help purchase additional materials such as concrete, picnic tables and paint.

“I don’t know what’s more amazing, the physical transformation of the space out here or witnessing the energy of all these volunteers — kids and adults, police department, Kohl’s associates and Boys & Girls Club kids — even after seven hours,” said Robert Clark, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine.

“It was for the Boys & Girls Club and it was a bunch of fun,” said Cameron Hutchins, 12, of Auburn. “I think it was really helpful just covering up where people have tagged the building.”

Hutchins was one of several club members who spent most of the day working on the approximately 75- by 100-foot yard.

“Today showed the perfect picture of what a true community policing partnership is with our youth, our law enforcement, our businesses and our community connecting,” said Chief Phil Crowel of the Auburn Police Department. “What I saw today was kids taking pride in their second home and wanting to be part of the solution.”

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