Despite this polar vortex that won't let go, the spring season is starting to flex its muscles, ready to give the cold weather a swift and final kick into oblivion.
The birds have announced it in song, happily serenading everyone within earshot. Snippets of green are poking through the brown ground. The days are longer, the sun warmer.
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It's time to get outdoors and celebrate, which the Fox Valley Park District plans to do on Saturday, April 26, with its sixth annual Spring Spruce-Up. The district's biggest volunteer event of the year brings communities together in the name of common good -- beautifying the local parks and trails we share and enjoy.
This year's event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to noon at four different park sites. Volunteers of all ages are welcome to join in for a morning of outdoor camaraderie. It's a perfect precursor to Earth Day as we take care of our little corner of the planet and make it better in a small yet significant way.
Each volunteer taking part in Spring Spruce-Up can participate at a park site of their choosing -- most prefer one close to home -- where you'll be joined by park district staff. Together, the groups will give their site a makeover involving litter cleanup, raking and other touches to make our parks and trails shine.
All volunteers receive a complimentary snack, bottle of water and a special park district gift.
"Spring Spruce-Up is a great event for people to come together and give back to their community -- right in their own neighborhoods," said Debbie Smith, community outreach manager for the park district and lead organizer for Spring Spruce-Up. "It's also a good opportunity for children to learn about volunteering and what a difference it can make."
Begun in 2009, Spring Spruce-Up has had as many as 600 volunteers show up for service. Scout groups, church groups, students and neighbors have all joined in and given back to their neighborhoods and communities.
"Our volunteers take great pride in their parks," said Smith. "People often feel a sense of ownership, and keeping local parks clean is a reflection of the residents who live around those parks."
The four park/trail sites selected were spaced geographically throughout the District so no volunteer will have to travel far to help make a difference. The sites are:
• Gilman Trail / Blackberry Farm at 100 S. Barnes Road, Aurora.
• North Aurora Island Park at State Street Bridge, North Aurora.
• South Island Park at Ashland Avenue and Route 25, Aurora.
• Waubonsie Lake Park at Montgomery and Kautz roads, Aurora.
A few hours on a Saturday morning -- a volunteer party in the park -- will make a big difference with lasting effects that go well beyond a simple cleanup.
To register for Spring Spruce-Up, interested volunteers can contact Debbie Smith at (630) 966-4555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District.