Written by: Jen Pieson

The Pennsylvania office of JoycePayne Partners had the recent opportunity to volunteer within their community.  Working with the United Way’s  “Day of Caring,” Jack, Lisa, Marilee, Debbie, Sarah and Jen spent a day beautifying the exterior of a local museum.

At JoycePayne Partners we were looking for an opportunity to volunteer, and we appreciate the United Way’s mission statement:”United Way improves lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good.”  While scanning the list from The United Way Day of Caring website we came across this request: several volunteers who could commit their day to beautifying the grounds of the Kemerer Museum.  The Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts is located in downtown Bethlehem, just a few blocks from the JPP office.  The museum houses local folk art and furniture, paintings, maps and toys spanning a time period of nearly 300 years.  Recently the museum underwent some big changes; was remodeled both inside and out, and was set to have its grand re-opening in a matter of weeks.  It was a perfect fit!

We arrived at the Kemerer Museum on a warm and rainy morning and got to work.  We met with another team of volunteers, who began to tackle the front of the building, and the JPP team took over the back lot.  The Museum’s backyard is enclosed within a beautiful old stone wall with lovely black iron gates at the entrance areas.  The walls were crawling with ivy and the ground cluttered with weeds.  The whole place needed a good once-over.

We all got to work, using some of the tools that belong to the Historic Bethlehem Partnership and more supplies that Jack brought from home.  Thank goodness he brought extra gloves, because I forgot mine and weeding on a drizzly day is no fun bare-handed!  We settled into a good rhythm and worked for about two hours before the gentleman in charge urged us to take a break.  Sitting around a table, drinking lemonade and eating doughnuts, we chatted and relaxed.  In the middle of a sentence Jack casually reached down and pulled a spider out of his sock.  That was the abrupt end of our break, and the beginning of a semi-frantic bug check for the rest of us.

Sarah, Marilee and I began working on the ivy-covered wall.  Stripping the ivy off the wall was easier than it initially appeared, and very gratifying.  We hacked at the roots of the plants with big gardening shears, then pulled and cut away the big leafy parts  until huge batches of ivy came off the wall.  What a difference that made!  The only surprise there was the biggest crickets I’ve ever seen in my life.  As we’re pulling ivy off the wall we were disturbing the crickets who were hiding there, and every few seconds these huge bugs would come lunging away from the wall, arcing to the ground and then popping back up in the air like tennis balls.

One was so huge, and jumped so near me, I may have let out a bit of a shriek.  I said, “Hugest cricket ever!” I said, to explain why I’d been startled.  Immediately another, even bigger cricket leaped out at me.  “And I just met its mother!”

Seeing the finished product was really rewarding.  It’s amazing what a team of workers can complete in a short amount of time.  The once weed-laced grounds were now neat and smooth, and the ivy-covered wall now clean and beautiful.  We rocked that backyard, and the Museum was ready to open.

We finished off our Day of Caring with a late pizza lunch before getting caught up on the work we’d missed that day.  There’s something very heartwarming about spending time with coworkers out of the office.  It’s always been a priority of JPP to foster a comfortable working environment; to encourage employees to have some more casual interactions with each other.  One memorable year the Pennsylvania and Virginia offices met at an amusement park and rode the rides all day, and ate funnel cake and hot dogs.  It was great!  You haven’t really lived until you faced off against your boss in the bumper cars.

Volunteering in our community was a great opportunity to help out, but it was also a nice change from our every-day office work.  It was good for us to see our coworkers in t-shirts and jeans, hands dirty, laughing over lemonade, all working toward one common goal.  I pass the Kemerer Museum often when I’m downtown, and now whenever I see it I smile, proud of the work we got done that day.

We’re looking forward to participating in Day of Caring again next year.  Although I’ll probably swap my sneakers for boots next time because, between you and me, I have a feeling the father cricket is still out there and he’s got his eye on me.