Kent County Program seeks volunteers to shovel pathways


Photo by Anna Delph.

A group of people wait in the cold for the bus to arrive. When it does pull up, they push through snow banks to reach the door, feet sinking into snow up to their shins.

Winter in Kent County brings deep drifts of snow and with it serious safety problems. Unplowed sidewalks and public bus stops pose obstacles and slipping hazards for children, the elderly or people with mobility concerns.

In response to these challenges, one program, “Shoveling Snow Angels,” hopes to make this season safer for all Kent County residents.

In an appeal posted through flyers and Facebook, Kent County is asking residents to volunteer to shovel walkways, bus stops, fire hydrants and other access points in neighborhoods to make the community less dangerous, helping everyone get to school, work or medical appointments.

“The main concern are the bus routes,” said Jack Stewart, Kent County emergency management coordinator. “We want to make sure things are clear so that [everyone] can access public transportation.”

“Shoveling Snow Angels” has been in the works since last June, said Stewart, in response to some areas in the neighborhood not being included in the normal snow plow routes.

The program has already attracted interest and formed partnerships with organizations such as Heart of West Michigan United Way, Kent County Disability Advocates and The Rapid bus line, who each publicized the program on their Facebook pages.

“Angels” of all ages are getting involved. About 40 students from Grandville High School have volunteered to shovel snow after school.

As the program expands, says Stewart, “We are hoping for consistent mechanisms to have these services done. We continue to meet and hope that we get a good response, putting commitment into action.”

The program is still looking for volunteers to commit to clearing public spaces or driveways of neighbors who may be incapacitated. If the community service aspect alone doesn’t entice people, the city is rewarding volunteers with MyGRCitypoints that can be redeemed at local businesses such as The Rapid or Twisted Rooster.

Anyone willing to brave the cold can reach out to or their city’s “Shoveling Snow Angels” Facebook page.

Junior Anna Delph, a Texas native, has had neighbors assist her in snowy circumstances and considers the organization a good way to give back. “It’s a good way of utilizing community resources in order to accomplish something that will benefit a lot of people,” she said.

“I would definitely volunteer to help out with a certain area once a week. The organization has a great incentive system and could bring the community together.”