At the Rust Nature Sanctuary in Leesburg, May 4, the sound of a wood chipper could be heard across a large part of the property. Sawdust filled the air and covered the people carrying branches to the machine and those pushing wheelbarrows of newly created mulch up a nearby hill.
For the 55 AOL employees in the Shared Services Department who volunteered at the sanctuary Friday, working at the outdoor site was natural.
"We have someone at AOL, in our department who works here," Colleen Muldoon, project manager for the site, said. "So it really was a natural fit."
IN TOTAL 820 AOL employees stepped outside of their offices Friday to participate in the first day of the Greater DC Cares Servathon, which takes place one weekend ever year.
"The Servathon is a microcosm of what we do throughout the year," Dee Ellison, director of communications for Greater DC Cares Servathon, said. "Servathon is our largest fund-raiser of the year."
Over the two-day event, 3,000 volunteers worked at 45 different sites around the Washington, D.C., area to help local nonprofits.
"The value of the volunteers work and goods are saving about $400,000 in two days," Ellison said.
For the third year in a row, AOL is a presenting sponsor of the event, giving its employees a day to volunteer their time.
"Partnering with Greater DC Cares and the Servathon gives us the opportunity to provide our employees with a number of activities and introduction to nonprofits in the area," Ashley Spicer, AOL’s communications manager, said. "There is nothing more rewarding that seeing our employees and volunteers around the DC area take the time to give back."
FOR THE nonprofits that take part in the Servathon, the days of service give them the opportunity to complete jobs they would not normally have time to do.
"This gives us a large workforce that is very eager and extraordinarily competent," Cliff Fairweather, Rust Nature Sanctuary’s manager, said. "We get a whole lot of work done in a short period of time. I’ve been wanting to do the pine clearing for years."
At the Good Shepherd Alliance’s Thrift Store in Sterling, AOL employees helped reorganize the inventory and clean the store. Mary Fittro, the store's manager, said the volunteers' work will help the store in the long run.
"Normally it doubles sales," she said. "Whenever you straighten things so people can see, it'll sell."
For the volunteers, the chance to give back was important.
"It is important for us to be visible in our work because we do live in this community," Jill Dulaney, AOL’s project leader at the thrift store, said. "It is great for people who want to volunteer, but don't have time."
THIS WAS the first year the thrift store has taken part in the Servathon and Fittro said events like the Servathon can help build the store’s volunteers throughout the year.
"A lot of times we get people who participate in events like this and come back again," she said.
Ellison said that garnering support for nonprofits is one of the main reasons behind the Servathon.
"We hope to bring people in on the Servathon and that they get hooked on volunteering," she said. "Greater DC Cares is really about impact."