I confess that when I first started working at Community Thread, I wasn’t sure I could explain why our work impacts the community at large. I knew how our volunteer center deploys people to help with household projects, and how our transportation program helps get people to medical appointments, and how our senior center programs serve as a gateway for living and aging well. And I witnessed that the programs we offer do indeed change the lives of the older and disabled adults we serve. But on a larger scale, why does Community Thread’s work matter in the community?

In researching the topic of “building community,” I kept coming across edgy business advice (and the “building” they were referring to was about making money, not changing lives). It turns out that I had the order of the words wrong: it’s community building. And community building is at the heart of Community Thread’s work.

Our work brings people together, in person, to improve individual well-being and reduce the negative impacts of otherwise disconnected individuals. “Community building” sounds like a buzz phrase, but when neighbors get intentional and begin to act on behalf of their community, it’s really powerful.

Every October, Community Thread organizes Rake a Difference Day, where seniors (age 55 and older) and individuals with disabilities in Washington County who need yard raking can apply to have a team of volunteers give them a hand. Last year, more than 400 volunteers got the job done at 60 homes in the community.

Rake a Difference Day helps seniors and individuals with disabilities live independently while allowing volunteer groups to make a difference in the lives of local community members. A past recipient commented, “It took a load of care off my mind and made a total difference in my ability to stay in my home.”

This simple act of kindness creates a culture of civic engagement while helping seniors and disabled homeowners feel a sense of belonging. And with a sense of belonging, community is built.

Community Thread is accepting applications from individuals who would like volunteer assistance having their yards raked. Applications can be obtained by calling Community Thread at 651-439-7434. Volunteers will rake yards from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 24. Volunteer groups typically include families, scout troops, service clubs, school groups, and businesses. Interested volunteer groups can register by calling Community Thread at 651-439-7434 or by visiting CommunityThreadMN.org.

Shared beliefs are at the base of community building. As a community, we believe in taking care of our neighbors. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many neighbors into our lives,ultimately making a difference in theirs.

Sally Anderson is the executive director of Community Thread, a Stillwater-based nonprofit that serves seniors and provides volunteer opportunities. She has a master’s in health administration, and her professional experience includes starting a nonprofit mental health clinic and managing programs that serve aging and disabled populations.