Kent County

Volunteers help Kent Co. veterans with landscaping

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — At 92, George Burr and his wife of 66 years usually have to pick and choose what gets done around the house, but Friday was different. 

An army of volunteers came to their home as part of the Heart of West Michigan United Way's first ever Operation United, a one-day project designed to give back to veterans by helping with household chores.

“They're working hard out here,” said Burr’s daughter, Bonnie Burr-Gantz to her father as they walked to the backyard of his Plainfield Township home Friday morning.  

“Yea, they are,” responded Burr, as he watched a few dozen volunteers mow, clean flowerbeds and empty debris from the gutters. “I used to do this stuff here and there, but I got too old for it.”

Burr is a typical member of what’s known as the Greatest Generation.

He served in Japan as a military policeman during and after World War II.

Burr eventually came home, finished school, got a job, raised a family and continued his service to others.

He still proudly displays his Kent County Sheriff’s Reserve Deputy badge. It’s just one example of the many ways he volunteered his time.

“That's how we grew up,” Burr-Gantz said.  “Always (asking) what can we do? What can we help with?”

That’s why the United Way created Operation United — to help those who've helped others through the decades.

People like Burr are typically not good about telling others about their accomplishments. Therefore, the United Way reached out to others, like family members, for nominations.

“They won't brag about themselves. They have done this as just part of who they are,” said Ellen Carpenter, vice president of marketing of Heart of West Michigan United Way. “It was really important to for friends and family and the community to recognize what they have done.”

Burr-Gantz wrote her father's nomination.

“My dad has always given to everybody. To this day, he'd give you his last dollar. I thought it would be nice to get help to do something for him,” Burr-Gantz said.

Burr's house was one of 26 homes belonging to veterans in the Grand Rapids-area to get a little care from some 300 volunteers.

Local employers, like Grand Rapids Community College, provided the muscle. Local companies donated the supplies.

“It's appreciated, I'll tell ya,” Burr said.

At the end of a long day, the Burr's backyard was rejuvenated and a sense of community was reaffirmed.

“It's just amazing that people are out there, recognizing all the veterans,” Burr-Gantz said.

While Operation United happens once a year, Heart of Michigan United Way has other programs that help veterans.

 


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