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National Cherry Festival Volunteers Give Back, Get Back

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the National Cherry Festival, it’s truly a community event.

There’s a special program that rewards volunteers who represent non-profits—a program where everyone wins. This year, 13 organizations are taking part in the Community Share Group Program.

Lucas is one of the younger volunteers at the National Cherry Festival. He’s giving his time by representing his Kingsley Boy Scout troop.

Lucas says, "It just feels good really good to help people out.”

His mother, Michelle Houghton, says, "We are clearing up around where people put down the clothes and put down items that are for sale and we are also helping people get around to places.”

On Monday he was with his mom in the souvenir tent. He’s gotten plenty of experiences from the NCF.

"I’ve done green team, we’re doing the ice cream tent tomorrow, I’ve done the souvenir tent, which is today, I’ve also done the Pepsi tent too,” he said.

The jobs provide lessons his mom says are invaluable.

"It’s good for them to learn that you don’t have to get something back,” she says. “Sometimes you just do stuff because it’s the right thing to do, and I think that’s really important for kids nowadays.”

But it’s not just the Cherry Festival that benefits from their service. These volunteers are making money for the non-profits they represent, says Kat Paye, executive director of the NCF.

"We actually ask charity groups to come volunteer at the Cherry Festival wearing their logoed gear, and we pay them back a stipend to the group for their time,” she said.

Every volunteer like Lucas makes an hourly wage that goes right back to their non-profit.

"It’s anywhere between $30,000 to $50,000 a year that we give back, depending on the year and on the amount of groups,” Paye said.

And in the end, everybody wins.

"It’s a great opportunity, we love to give back and we also exceptionally appreciate the support,” Paye said. “The support of these non-profits coming down to help us another non-profit is wonderful, and we appreciate that. We love the camaraderie and the sense of community that we can all come together and pull off one of the biggest festivals in the area.”

The Cherry Festival is always looking for more Community Share Groups.

The application process starts in January.