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GM employees lend a hand

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VOLUNTEERING: GM Cares volunteer Marty Pattison installs new electrical outlets in the exercise room at the Marion-Grant County Senior Center on Wednesday. GM Cares volunteers made a variety of improvements at the center this week.
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PAINTINGS: GM Cares volunteer Jeff Stewart hangs paintings in the Hearth Room at the Marion-Grant County Senior Center on Wednesday. GM Cares volunteers painted the room and did other work at the center this week.
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Donations: Liz Wright, executive director for the Marion-Grant County Senior Center, left, listens as GM Cares volunteer Rick Tardy talks about community donations that made the volunteers’ work possible on Wednesday. GM Cares volunteers made a variety of improvements at the center this week.

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

General Motors is providing a helping hand to the Grant County Senior Center as part of “teamGM Cares Week.”

This week between 15 and 20 volunteers have been repainting walls, providing yard work, installing a new flag pole and serving lunches to seniors. In addition to this, GM is also giving the center a $10,000 grant to help fund their weekday lunch program.

“Oh my gosh it’s just a blessing,” said Liz Wright, executive director of the senior center, “what (volunteers) do in a week, we couldn’t accomplish here at the center in a year.”

This is not the first year that GM has assisted the senior center. In the past, GM has redone bathrooms, paved the parking lot, added new flooring and fixed plumbing. This year the major projects include painting walls and installing a new stove hood to increase how many meals the senior center can serve.

After assisting the senior center last year, Wright said that GM invited the center to apply for a Community Impact Grant to help with the senior lunch program which was struggling with funding. Wright was told this week the Center had won a $10,000 grant, which was awarded to them on Wednesday.

In addition to the grant, General Motors is making a second monetary donation to the Senior Center. Wright said GM volunteers keep track of hours worked at the Center and the company pays the Center the wages the volunteers would have earned at the factory. Last year, they doubled the match and the center received a $2,500 donation.

“It just means the world that we can take a week and give back to the community like this,” said Rick Tardy, volunteer and site utility manager at Marion Metal Center. Tardy said he enjoys how much the senior center appreciates him and other volunteers.

This week Tardy has been working to repaint the hearth room and said the fresh coat of paint makes quite a difference. It brightens everyone’s day and makes residents feel better.

“They have done a tremendous job here and helped us in a number of ways,” said Paul Thompson Jr., an advisory board member at the senior center. “This is really a blessing to the Senior Center and to the people who come to the Senior Center for meals and recreation everyday.”

Throughout the week more than 100 General Motors employees have also been volunteering elsewhere in the community, including the Marion-Grant County Humane Society, the St. Martin Community Center and the Cancer Services of Grant County.

“We come out in the community and we support the people that live in this community,” said Brian Hiestand, Marion Metal Center shop chairman, “it’s a way to give back and it’s good for all the people around Marion.”

To find ways GM can help in the community, the company begins its search six-months in advance to create a strategy. Tom Gallagher, Marion Metal Center plant manager, said “in addition to the hours our people are investing, we also put about $5,000 of project money into what we’re doing.

“We’re able to extend that with partnerships in the community, like Lowes, and it makes a big difference,” Gallagher said.

The week of volunteering is taking place corporate wide in all of the communities General Motors touches such as Marion, Detroit and Flint, Mich.

“A lot of the crew come back year after year,” said Tardy, “when you walk in the (senior center) door everyone’s eyes get bright and they just say what are you gonna get done for us this year?”