Martin Luther King Park should look a lot better after Friday.
That's the day when volunteers will descend on the area as part of the United Way's Day of Caring event.
Jason Duren, United Way's coordinator of services, said this will be the first time in three years the event will have some of the same vigor that it's had in the past. For the past two years, the pandemic has gotten in the way, leaving organizers to encourage individuals to do what they could for the less fortunate.
"Last year, we couldn't get together and were very limited in our parameters of community engagement," Duren said. "We did what we could do and pushed it as far as we could."
To that end, individuals gathered food and hygiene products, most of which were donated to the CASA Women's Shelter and the Salvation Army, both of which provide shelter for those in need, Duren said.
"People were helping neighbors and loved ones," Duren said. "And even though we couldn't get together in person, we were inspired by each other's kindness and helped some nonprofits in return."
Because covid is not nearly the health factor it was last year, organizers this year will be able to fully engage with volunteers, as has happened for the past several years before covid, Duren said. Currently, some 100 people have signed up, but Duren said not everyone has registered and that he expects between 150 and 200 people to participate.
The volunteers will meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Coretta Scott King Center building in the park and fan out from there to tackle several jobs. One item on the to-do list, Duren said, will be to repaint the old metal rocket that has been a park mainstay for decades. Another will be to place sod and plant shrubs and other plants in several planter boxes. As well, volunteers will be asked to paint the small pavilions that cover the picnic tables in the area and clean up around the park's lake.
Crews will also go to the animal shelter to clean the cages and walk and play with the dogs.
"With everyone out there, maybe some of those babies can get adopted," Duren said.
In addition, volunteers will be asked to bring nonperishable food items, which will be donated to Neighbor to Neighbor, the community food pantry that feeds people, gives out groceries, helps with utility bills and provides clothing.
The volunteers will eat lunch at the Coretta Scott King building, Duren said. Those wanting to join the Day of Caring event were asked to contact the United Way.
The week is a busy one for United Way staff. On top of the Day of Caring event, the agency's annual kickoff will be held on Thursday starting at 11:30 a.m. at the Pine Bluff Country Club. This year, the featured entertainment will be the choir from the Jenkins Memorial Center, Duren said.