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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

A Thousand Volunteers In North Texas Mark Sept. 11 With A Day Of Service

Courtney Collins
Volunteers sift through boxes of tea, tying individual bags into cellophane bundles, at Hope's Door New Beginning Center Tuesday.

For the 17th straight year, the Communities Foundation of Texas mobilized volunteers across North Texas, hoping to commemorate the Sept. 11 terror attacks with hard work and compassion. 

In total, they tackled 27 service projects across the region.

Spending time on the little things

The conference room at Hope's Door New Beginning Center smells sweet and spicy, as volunteers sift through boxes of tea, tying individual bags into pretty cellophane bundles.

The packets of cranberry orange, strawberry hibiscus and green tea, are destined to become favors at a fundraising luncheon, which will benefit the Plano nonprofit.

"Like many nonprofits, they have very little staff. And their staff is actually dealing with those in the community that need their services. So we as volunteers can come in and do some of those jobs that they are not able to do because they're trying to take care of the people that they're serving," says Sarah Higdon with the Communities Foundation of Texas.

Higdon is one of about a dozen volunteers gathered around the conference table and sifting through tea stash. Later in the day, the group will organize the Hope's Door donation room. While staffers are busy helping victims of family violence find a safe place to live, these volunteers donate, elbow grease. That frees up the trained professionals to focus on their clients.

Freedom Day

Higdon says it's the perfect way to mark 9/11 each year. The effort is called Freedom Day.

"It certainly is a way to take a very sad and very traumatic day for our country and try to do something positive and inspiring with it," she says.

Launched a year after the Sept. 11th attacks, Freedom Day began with just 125 volunteers. This year, more than 1,000 people came out to pitch in on 27 different projects in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington and Plano.

This is Michael Young's ninth year volunteering. He says it's always a powerful reminder that you don't have to go far to find people on the edge. People who need help.

"They're right here. And the fact is you don't have to really go somewhere or do something super significant to have a real impact," says Young. "I mean this is four to six hours of our time, doing really basic, little things. But they do add up and mean a lot to the people that use this service."

A bright spot

Young works for Marketwave, an advertising and marketing company based in Addison. The company has deployed Freedom Day volunteers for a decade now. Employees like Dione Martin look forward to it every year.

"We've been exposed to a lot of organizations and people that we didn't even know existed, and lots of different causes, and things that you just don't normally think about every day because it's not directly affecting you," Martin says. "It's just a moment for us to think about other people and sort of get out of ourselves a little bit."

And these volunteers are finding, they don't need to take a service trip abroad or build a house from the ground up. On Freedom Day, they just need to tie up tea bags with a fancy ribbon and make sure every cute little cellophane bundle is fixed with a label.

The Communities Foundation of Texas is a funder of KERA's One Crisis Away project.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.