Weaving dozens of fake evergreen strips through tall chain link fencing to create a hedge-like privacy barrier is a tedious and time-consuming process.

That's why it's nice to have volunteers to do the work.

Employees of Sun Bank's Cape May County branches helped build a fencing barrier at the Cape May County Zoo in Cape May Court House last month as part of its "Banking On Our Communities Day."

More than 500 employees statewide closed their bank branches at noon and spent the afternoon helping more than 50 organizations in the state with projects.

In Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and southern Ocean counties workers were at about a dozen locations ranging from Sister Jean's Kitchen in Atlantic City to Habitat for Humanity in Southern Ocean County and the Cumberland County SPCA.

Jobs ranged from raking leaves at the Shirley Eves Developmental and Therap-eutic Center in Millville to serving meals at Sister Jean's Kitchen and updating computers at the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Cumberland and Salem Count-ies in Vineland.

Heather Hardwick, vice president of public relations and communications for Sun Bank said the program was started by Thomas Geisel after he became president and CEO of the Vineland-based bank. Bank employees are encouraged to suggest projects.

"Each branch decides what they want to do," Hardwick said, "and we invite non-profits to ask for help also. We are always looking for more groups."

The community day is typically held in the fall, which does generate a predominance of leaf raking. Several workers at the zoo raked up endless piles of leaves at the wooded site.

"The wind is definitely not cooperating today," said Darlean Silva, of Seaville, who works at the Tuckahoe branch, as leaves blew across the walkway.

Adriana Bigenis, of North Cape May, who works at the Rio Grande branch, said this is the first place she's worked that did a community service project, and she really enjoyed it.

"It's a way to give back to the community," she said.

Susan Broderick, of Cape May, a teller in Rio Grande, suggested the zoo as a project and Silva called to volunteer.

Mike Laffey, director of parks for Cape May County, said they have a number of companies and non-profit groups that volunteer to spend a day or do a project at the park or zoo. He said they help save the park money and can do projects that might not otherwise get done..

He cited South Jersey Gas, TD Bank, Home Depot and Lowes as among the companies that volunteered at the park. TD Bank workers planted a garden, Home Depot put a roof on one of the buildings and Lowes Heroes worked on the zoo entrance.

He said other non-profit groups have also done projects at the zoo including the Richard Stockton College men's soccer team, which built picnic tables, and the South Jersey Triathlon Club, which helped with the education center.

Students from the University of Delaware Honors Program also did some work on the fence, though there was still plenty for the Sun Bank volunteers.

"That is a tedious project," Laffey said.

The day's weavers from Sun Bank, Nichol Hoff, of Cape May Court House, Charlotte Wigglesworth, of Upper Township, Karen Bogardus, of Corbin City, Ceyda Soylemez, of Cape May Court House and Broderick, used a ladder, teamwork and patience to get the job done.

Recipients of the Sun Bank's volunteer efforts said it's great to have someone to help with special projects.

Donna Bennett, president and CEO of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Cumberland and Cape May Counties, said the Sun Bank volunteers held "Christmas in October," making name tags for the holiday Giving Tree and wrapping some gifts they have already received.

Another group, led by bank employee Eugene Slavoff, of Vineland, did a sweep of the group's computers, upgrading and checking for viruses.

"He works at the bank, but he's also our IT volunteer here," Bennett said. Another bank employee Toni Sapello, of Vineland, is a Big Sister with the group.

The Cumberland and Salem BBBS group serves about 250 children, and has 50 on a waiting list, and they try to provide gifts for as many as they can each year, Bennett said. A gift-wrapping party is scheduled for Dec. 12.

"We have a pretty good system here to get it all done," Bennett said. "But we can always use more help."

Other local groups that benefited from Sun Bank volunteers this year were the Brigantine Historical Museum, Habitat for Humanity of Southern Ocean County, Associated Humane Societies Popcorn Park in Lacey Township, the Shirley Eves Developmental Center in Millville, Senior Care of Vineland, Cumberland County SPCA in Vineland, WheatonArts in Millville, and the N.J. Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland.

Contact Diane D'Amico:

609-272-7241