BENTON HARBOR — Carley and Matthew Harper spent their workday patching and painting walls at an Emergency Shelter Services building in Benton Harbor on Wednesday.
The couple were taking part in the 10th annual KitchenAid Day of Caring, where hundreds of KitchenAid volunteers ventured out to help several nonprofit organizations for a day.
“We’ve all been in a situation where we need a blessing in life,” said Carley, a procurement lead at KitchenAid’s Greenville, Ohio, plant. “Taking a step back and looking at what people are going through here in our area is a very humbling experience. It puts things into perspective.”
What began 10 years ago as a team-building event for the KitchenAid small appliance team has since grown into a global effort.
With more than 200 volunteers operating in Southwest Michigan, a total of 300 Whirlpool Corp. and KitchenAid employees volunteered around the world.
In all 27 nonprofits were being serviced around the world Wednesday.
Locally, volunteers set up shop at 17 nonprofits this year, including the the Berrien Child Advocate Center, Joel Smilow Teen Center, Krasl Art Center and the R.E.A.D.Y. Taekwondo Academy. Each group began work at 7 a.m. and continued well into the afternoon.
Elsewhere in Southwest Michigan, KitchenAid volunteers did some landscaping and washing at the Berrien RESA Lighthouse Education Center; helped rehab homes for Habitat for Humanity; and re-graded gravel for the Salvation Army.
The Harpers were co-leading an effort at the Emergency Shelter Services building that involved prepping a portion of land for a playground, setting up a learning lab downstairs and adding onto a classroom upstairs.
Michael, who is a mechanical engineer for KitchenAid, said this is his second year taking part in the Day of Caring effort.
“I love the opportunity to get out here and help the community,” he said.
Stanley Scott, fundraising and events coordinator of the Emergency Shelter Services, said the shelter has a school-centered mindset as it partners with Brookview Montessori School in taking in families and students.
As a result of the partnership, the shelter has a Montessori-style classroom upstairs and plans to install a playground that incorporates the school’s teachings.
“The time and cost of manpower would be too much,” Scott said. “The fact that KitchenAid is willing to come in here and do this at no cost means a lot.”
The shelter houses up to 30 people at a time, while the numbers tend to fluctuate from month to month. The average stay for each family is about 30 days. However, Scott said families are allowed to stay up to 90 days.
Families are fed breakfast and dinner in addition to getting a place to stay.
The furniture that is being added to the shelter was chosen from the 6 Degrees Resale Store. Scott said some of the items were also donated.
“This Day of Caring will have a lasting impact for years to come,” Scott said. “It’s amazing how one day can mean so much. Could you imagine if everyone did something like this?”
This year also marks KitchenAid’s 100-year anniversary.
Brad Gorman, communications senior manager for KitchenAid small appliances, said they purposely held this year’s event on June 19 in honor of KitchenAid’s inception (the company was founded in 1919).
As a homage to the occasion, several volunteers donned shirts Wednesday with the saying, “100 years of making, 10 years of serving.”
Last year, KitchenAid had volunteers in five countries participating for its annual Day of Caring. This year, the number of participating countries is 10.
With the majority of the collaborative effort taking place within the Twin Cities, Carley said its events like these that remind her why she works for the appliance maker.
“It’s so rewarding to give back, but also to get closer to your peers,” Carley said.
Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski