Hundreds of volunteers help during United Way's Day of Caring

tjefferson@vagazette.com

With tools in hand and smiles on their faces, hundreds of volunteers gathered at the Jamestown 4-H educational center Friday ready to help as part of the United Way of Williamsburg’s annual Day of Caring.

After an early morning breakfast, 660 volunteers broke into 45 volunteer groups and departed to lend a hand at various nonprofits throughout the city.

“There’s a big need for help for the nonprofits in the area to get projects done,” said Katie Schubert, Day of Caring organizer. “The community as a whole loves to help out. … It’s a great day all around and it’s my favorite day of the year.”

Day of Caring, an annual nationwide effort by United Way, supports local nonprofits and public service agencies in communities by linking teams of volunteers to improvement projects. This year, projects included landscaping, painting, cleaning, repair work and gardening.

“The Day of Caring is a kickoff for our fundraising campaign. The turnout today shows how much the entire community cares about the well-being of others in the community. It’s a call to action for everybody,” said Steven S. Kast, president and CEO of United Way of the Virginia Peninsula.

Worldwide, United Way had 2.8 million volunteers serve 1,800 communities across 40 countries, last year.

The United Way of Greater Williamsburg and the United Way of the Virginia Peninsula merged on June 9 to serve a larger base and combine resources.

The merged United Way now serves the counties of Gloucester, New Kent, James City, Mathews and York, as well as the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson and Williamsburg.

In the past, United Way of Williamsburg has funded several local nonprofit groups, including the Avalon Center for Women and Children, Child Development Resources, Girl Scouts Council of the Colonial Coast and Peninsula Agency on Aging.

Kast said the merger was seamless and he was excited for the upcoming year.

“We’re months ahead of where I thought we would be,” Kast said.

Kast wasn’t the only one excited. The hundreds of volunteers were ready to get going after Kast addressed the crowd following breakfast.

“We’re ready. Last year, we had four people paint rooms at the Angels of Mercy Medical Clinic,” said Eddie Liu, minister at River of Life Christian Church in Newport News.

This year, Liu and 11 others built two gazebos at the Williamsburg Botanical Gardens and did some interior painting at the gardens.

Liu said serving the Greater Williamsburg area was of the utmost importance to him and his parishioners.

“We can’t just sit around and be comfortable. We all wanted to get out and do something for the community,” Liu said.

Schubert said volunteer efforts were scattered throughout the greater Williamsburg area. Volunteer sites included the Angels of Mercy Medical Clinic, the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation and the Jamestown 4-H educational center.

Chip Gabriel and his coworkers from Eaton-Marina Power & Lighting in Williamsburg, built new benches for the amphitheater and resurfaced the grounds at the rope course at the Jamestown 4-H educational center.

“It’s important for our business to contribute to the United Way of Williamsburg anyway we can,” Gabriel said. “This day affects so many people in this community positively and we want to be part of it.”

About 70 people helped with projects around the Jamestown 4-H educational center, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of youth and adult volunteers through camping, environmental education and leadership training.

Several Williamsburg Kiwanis Club members, including president Mary Beth Murphy, helped cover the pool at the Jamestown 4-H educational center with a tarp.

Murphy said the organization has participated in the Day of Caring for eight years.

“It’s a really neat feeling to have so many people from different walks of life coming together to help those in need,” Murphy said. “It’s very rewarding.”

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Want to help the United Way?

Call 229-2222 or visit bit.ly/2f0uz6z

Jefferson can be reached at 757-790-9313.

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