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One good turn ...

Volunteers spent Thursday afternoon helping out a fellow volunteer. Genevieve Tougas told her workers cookies and chocolate milk would be waiting for them, but instead they were handed brooms and a pair of garden shears. Tougas, who has volunteer...

Genevieve Tougas

Volunteers spent Thursday afternoon helping out a fellow volunteer.

Genevieve Tougas told her workers cookies and chocolate milk would be waiting for them, but instead they were handed brooms and a pair of garden shears.

Tougas, who has volunteered at Prairie Public Broadcasting in Fargo for more than a decade, was repaid by staff during United Way of Cass-Clay's 17th annual Day of Caring.

When she found out the volunteers were heading to her Fargo home, Tougas had just one question: white or chocolate milk?

Because there weren't many leaves to rake up, "maybe we should just play cards," Tougas suggested to the six volunteers in her kitchen.

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But there were other tasks besides raking leaves.

Troy Davis, the 6-foot 1-inch Prairie Public membership manager, was designated to scrub down Tougas' front windows.

He was careful to step around the shrubs.

"Gen helps all of our departments ... so we thought it would be good to give back," Davis said.

More than 1,400 volunteers from 85 organizations teamed up with 430 senior citizens across Cass and Clay counties to help with yard work and fall cleaning.

Jaclyn Magnusson of Prairie Public swept out Tougas's leaf-cluttered garage. She took her task in stride.

"It's kind of unusual because she's usually over at our place (Prairie Public) and now we are over at hers," Magnusson said. "Gen has been coming to Prairie Public for how many years, and this is the first time that we decided to get together and come to her house."

United Way Communications Director Kristina Hein said the Day of Caring helps develop camaraderie between volunteers and seniors.

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She cited Microsoft employees who have asked to volunteer at the same woman's house for the past five years.

"The neat thing about the Day of Caring is not just the volunteering," Hein said. "People take time to get to know the seniors, ask them about their lives."

The first Day of Caring was in 1992 with 150 volunteers. A year later, the focus shifted to helping seniors. Since then, the number of volunteers has grown more than 800 percent.

"It's not just the scrubbing and sweeping, it's the talking and stories and the connections that people make," Hein said.

For the employees that typically ask Tougas to help with monthly office work or judging youth writing contests, it was a nice change to turn the tables, Magnusson said.

Davis had a slightly different take.

"This all started because she promised us cookies," he said, as he brandished window cleaner in his right hand.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kim Winnegge at (701) 241-5524

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