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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Catholic Charities taking volunteers to help with annual spring yard clean up in Spokane neighborhoods

Volunteers are needed to spend a morning cleaning up the yards of low-income seniors and disabled adults next month as part of the Catholic Charities Volunteer Chore Services program.

This year’s spring yard cleanup day is set for April 13. Volunteers will be asked to rake, weed, trim bushes and mow lawns. “We just kind of tidy up the whole yard,” said VCS program manager Cyndie Lapke. “Winter makes it a little rough.”

Volunteers who sign up will meet at O’Malley Hall at St. Aloysius Catholic Church, 330 E. Boone, at 8:30 a.m. on April 13 for fruit, muffins and an orientation. Groups of five or six will fan out around Spokane and Spokane Valley, usually completing two homes per team by noon.

Volunteers are told to get instructions from the client when needed, Lapke said. “If you’re not sure if it’s garbage or a weed, ask,” she said.

Volunteers are given the address and telephone number of their client along with a map, but volunteers have been known to accidentally clean the wrong yard, Lapke said.

Lapke said she typically gets groups of students from Gonzaga and Whitworth universities as well as local high schools, but families and individuals are also needed to help out. She said she won’t turn any volunteers away.

“I never say no to volunteers,” she said. “I’ll take them.”

Those who plan to volunteer are asked to call Lapke at (509) 459-6172 or send an email to to sign up in advance.

The spring yard cleanup is just part of the Volunteer Chore Services program. Lapke has about 120 regular volunteers she can call on to help with various tasks, including minor home repairs, light housecleaning, snow shoveling, lawn mowing and giving rides to the grocery store once a month. The program has even done dog walking in the past.

“We provide volunteers for low income seniors and people with disabilities so people can stay in their own home as long as they can,” she said. “It’s just little things around the house.”

Many of the program’s clients are in their 70s and 80s and not all have family who can help with chores, she said.

Cathy Swam has been having her yard cleaned up every spring for years. She’s been legally blind since 1999 and has other health issues that limit her ability to do chores. She’s also turning 90 this year.

“I have a fracture in my back, and I’ve had scoliosis all my life,” she said. “I do need the help physically.”

Swam said having her yard work done by volunteers helps her stay in her Hillyard home, where she has lived since 1971. “I have a huge backyard,” she said. “All the leaves from all the trees around here blow in my yard. I do need a lot of help.”

The program also provides free rides to medical appointments, a service that has become even more important since Car Cares closed in January. Car Cares provided free rides to medical appointments, and Lapke said she’s seen a surge in need since they shut down.

“That almost doubles our need,” she said. “We are the only free transportation for seniors.”

The Volunteer Chore Services program started in 1981 as a pilot program in King County and soon spread throughout the state. Though the program is under the umbrella of Catholic Charities, funding comes from the state, Lapke said. Seniors and disabled adults must meet income requirements before they can sign up for the program.

Lapke said clients and volunteers enjoy the cleanup day and some clients bake treats for their crew. “It’s so much fun,” she said. “You get a great group of people who come in who are so enthusiastic. Our clients love it.”

The cleanup day will happen ran or shine, Lapke said. “It doesn’t matter. We’re doing it. We won’t mow if it rains, but we will do yard work.”

But volunteers have been blessed with good weather most years and she’s hopeful for this year, Lapke said. “We’ve been pretty lucky.”