During the holiday season, Newton's New Hope Shelter has plenty of reason to feel thankful — as numerous businesses from around the community have pitched in recently to help out with a variety of projects at the nonprofit.

One such project was a new patio that was installed at the shelter thanks to the donation of labor and equipment from Vogts-Parga Construction. As the only building where smoking is allowed on the EmberHope campus, and with the rest of the campus resuming operations within the past year, New Hope Shelter Director James Wilson noted the shelter was asked to move its designated smoking area to a more concealed location.

EmberHope provided fencing panels for the project and the generosity of Vogts-Parga helped complete the efforts of installing the new patio.

The patio was not the only cosmetic change taken on at New Hope in recent months, as the Newton branch of Heartland Credit Union also helped with some renovations — namely in repainting the hallways, dining room and kitchen area at the shelter.

"We had actually had a couple work groups in from Bethel College that week or the week prior and they had painted a couple of our family rooms and did some cleaning for us, so when Heartland approached us we tried to think of things that we could put them on," Wilson said. "It's an older building, so it's been a while since things have been cleaned up and touched up, so we had them repaint the hallway and it definitely made a big difference."

Heartland Credit Union reached out as part of its first ever community work day — a new initiative to get involved in service projects around the cities where HCU has branch locations, according to Vice President of Culture Michelle Waln.

Projects ranged from the repainting taken on by Newton's branch to pulling up weeds at playgrounds, among a number of other tasks performed by HCU staff. That comes in addition with the other outreach efforts HCU has taken on in its communities, including help with financial literacy in local schools, taking the "treat trike" out to public events, etc.

"We take it very seriously that it's incumbent upon us to really give back to the places that help support our cooperative. So, yeah, community is at our core," Waln said.

Nearly the entirety of HCU's staff participated in the community work day with Waln noting there was an overwhelmingly positive reaction from employees.

"It was a neat experience all around," Waln said. "The feedback we got from, really, virtually all of the staff was how rewarding it was and how they felt really good about what they had done that day."

Already, Waln said plans are in the works to keep the tradition going as employees can't wait to participate again.

Pointing out how crucial that service can be to local non-profits — something Wilson seconded — Waln said efforts will continue to be made to allow for employees to take volunteer opportunities that are presented, knowing how much of an impact those can have on the beneficiaries.

"There are certainly plenty of opportunities to get involved. It's just a matter of taking the time to search those out. Many non-profits in our communities do need extra help," Waln said.

"It's majorly important," Wilson said. "I would almost venture to say that for any nonprofit, especially here in Harvey County, to have someone who wants to volunteer and do some kind of service is always a great gift because so many nonprofits work on really tight budgets; they're very small staffed, if not understaffed. To have volunteers who want to come in and help do things that normally we wouldn't be able to do on our own is a great gift from them."

For other ways to get involved, check New Hope's website at www.newhope-shelter.org.