CECIL COUNTY — Fannie Woodhouse lives by a certain creed: care for your neighbor in their time of need, and that helping hand will be there to lift you up when you are the one who has been knocked down.
“Everybody needs a helping hand, so we give a helping hand where it’s needed,” she said.
A resident of Hollingsworth Manor, Woodhouse volunteered with four of her great grandchildren and several other community members to clean out a trash-filled gulley in the wooded area between the Elkton neighborhood and U.S. Route 40.
The endeavor was part of Cecil Cares, an annual day of countywide community service in which more than 130 volunteers helped with various tasks at about a dozen project sites around Cecil County on Saturday.
Woodhouse said she tries to give back to her community as much as possible because she knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the coin.
“When the lights go off, or we need food or shelter, they’re always there to comfort us … My daughter, she died July 7, and a lot of volunteers came in and helped support me with her. So that’s why I’m out here: the joy, the love and the peace,” she said.
Woodhouse worked with her great grandchildren — Gene, Javier, Shanie and Shinaeja Gonzalez-Cooper — to remove tires, a toy cart, and other assorted items from the area behind Hollingsworth Manor.
Taking a break from hauling away debris, Gene said he volunteered with his family members to make the area clean and safe for all those who inhabit it.
“[Pollutants from trash] goes into the water, so it hurts the environment and it hurts the water and everything that has to drink the water,” he said.
Hollingsworth Manor resident Sheilagh Weinert, who often helps organize neighborhood cleanups as part of the Hollingsworth Help initiative, said the gulley has long been used as an improper dumping ground for residents’ belongings when they move out, a homeless campsite, and a spot for people to use drugs. Weinert wants to change that area’s image and improve the reputation of Hollingsworth Manor as a whole.
“We’re cleaning it up today so it looks a lot better in the neighborhood,” she said. “We’re trying to draw a better atmosphere in here.”
According to Weinert, nearly 30 people signed up ahead of time to volunteer for the cleanup effort, and more showed up the day of the event. She hopes the community’s involvement with Hollingsworth Manor through Cecil Cares will continue throughout the rest of the year.
On Elkton’s Main Street, volunteers used spray paint and stencils to decorate the parking spaces in the lot behind the Cecil County Arts Council. Brightly colored flowers and leaves adorned the arts council’s spaces, while hearts and stethoscopes furnished the spaces designated for Dr. Charles Samuel’s Elkton Chiropractic Neurology office.
Alex Wells, a Union Hospital nurse, said she and some of her coworkers volunteered at the arts council to do their part in supporting the community during Cecil Cares.
“We’re all about community at the hospital, so we wanted to give back,” she said.
At the Cecil County Animal Services office in Chesapeake City, volunteers helped sift through materials in a building that CCAS had been using to store pet food and miscellaneous items.
Among the volunteers were County Council President Bob Meffley and Terry Hale, council assistant.
Meffley, who also removed a shower from CCAS’s main building, said he has always volunteered at the animal shelter because he did the mechanical work there back when it was still the Cecil County SPCA.
“It’s a great organization,” he said, referring to CCAS. “I love to help out … It’s a no-kill shelter and you don’t find that anywhere, so it’s well worth the help.”
An animal lover and owner of five cats and one puppy, Hale said it feels good to help out the shelter.
“The more we can do, the less they have to spend county dollars to do it,” she said. “It’s a win-win for animal services.”
Before Saturday, CCAS employee Cassie Reeder said the storage building had a “heavy vibe” with barely any room to walk, but that the cleanup helped lessen the load.
“It feels much better, even just having the doors open and having the air blow through,” Reeder said.
Reeder hopes the Cecil Cares experience will keep volunteers coming back to shelter. After all, Reeder herself originally began as a CCAS volunteer before she started working there.
“It’s fulfilling,” she said. “I feel like volunteering really gave me a purpose — and then it gave me a job.”
Although CCAS Director Abigail Lightning-Bingham said the shelter has “big dreams” for the newly cleaned out, secondary building, she said nothing is set in stone just yet.
Lightning-Bingham appreciated the volunteers who came out to help clean and organize the shelter.
“It touches our hearts and souls to know that so many people care about animals in our community and truly want to make a difference,” she said.