It was high-fives, pats on the back and smiles all around on Wednesday during the United Way of Greater Charlottesville’s 32nd annual Day of Caring.
More than 1,700 volunteers helped more than 80 host organizations — schools, nonprofit groups and businesses — complete more than 100 service projects across the Charlottesville area, including makeovers, landscaping, clean-ups, website redesigns and more.
“The United Way is committed to connecting our community, so that we can all better understand the unique and valuable life experiences that others bring to the table,” Ravi Respeto, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Charlottesville, said in a statement. “The Day of Caring makes it easy for people to volunteer meaningfully as a group or individual and is an incredible day for the whole community to connect with one another to accomplish amazing things.”
The local United Way chapter, founded in 1943, is a mission-driven nonprofit organization focused on tackling systems and structures of inequity and opportunity imbalance in the area.
The volunteer work done on Wednesday is estimated to have been worth up to $270,000 — not including donated materials and supplies, the group said.
After a breakfast at John Paul Jones Arena, volunteers got to work throughout the day and throughout Charlottesville. Some of that work included:
Beautification at Burley
Jackson P. Burley Middle School has been participating in the Day of Caring for the past two years, according to Casey Goode, the school’s registrar. Volunteers helped the school tackle projects they’ve always wanted done, but haven’t been able to make time for, Goode said.
“It’s always been a really great turnout,“ said Goode. “They’re just a great help, and we appreciate that they come every fall, and they do their thing, and it takes so much off of our shoulders. So we are so grateful.”
This year, volunteers from State Farm and University of Virginia Athletics helped spread mulch, plant flowers, trim trees and bushes and paint walkways with blue and white paw prints at the “Home of the Bears.”
“Adding the paw prints out here just gives that warm and welcoming feeling that we wanted to capture here at Burley for our students, parents and community members that come,” Goode said.
Leslie Copley, State Farm volunteer, has been attending Day of Caring events for about 12 years now, she said. It’s a great way to give back and build bonds.
“Now that we work from home I am not able to see my coworkers and there’s this opportunity to see other people and participate,” Copley said.
About 20 volunteers from different departments of Virginia Athletics worked different shifts at the middle school, according to Ellen Cook, director of student development for the department. This is the fourth year Virginia Athletics has participated in the Day of Caring.
“Our student-athletes do a lot of work in the community working with kids and engaging with them, but this was a great opportunity to help beautify their space,” Cook said. “It gets them excited to come to school, and I think it’s really awesome that they can know Virginia Athletics helped in small part make it a cool space for them to come to school.”
Touching up the food bank
Volunteers from Leadership United helped refresh the look of the local Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.
The project was something the food bank identified as a priority but hasn’t been able to get around to, according to Ben Wilkes, director of development at United Way.
“Working at a nonprofit like United Way, I know how strapped for time our staff is, and so anything that we can do as community members to just step in and do something to make their space a little bit nicer every day is something that we are excited about,” Wilkes said.
Five volunteers came out and helped paint parking stops, the front door and general safety markers, said Wilkes.
The food bank’s beautification helped create a safe welcoming bright environment for guests, according to Brynna Strand, volunteering food drive coordinator at Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.
“We’re an active warehouse,” Strand said. “We’re moving thousands of pounds of food through here every day. We definitely have forklifts, all that going on, so we did some painting projects to highlight walkways and keep people safe when moving around our warehouse.”
Downtown Mall clean-up
Friends of Cville Downtown and S&P Global volunteered were cleaning up Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall Wednesday. The groups tackled erasing graffiti from walls and signs, taking down expired flyers and picking up trash.
The two groups began cleaning up at 9 a.m. and finished at about 12 p.m. The volunteers had their work cut out for them as they picked up individual cigarette butts by hand and scrubbed permanent marker and paint residue from end to end of the Mall.
“Downtown really is such a gem of our community, and we know that there are some challenges, and we think it’s going to take everybody to overcome those,” Greer Achenbach, executive director of Friends of Cville Downtown, said. “We are really thankful for United Way connecting us with these volunteers that we hope to use on a regular basis to invest our downtown community.”
This is the first year Friends of Cville Downtown has participated in the United Way Day of Caring. The “friends” are part of a nonprofit group that focuses on the beautification and economic development of the Downtown Mall.
“We are so thrilled for this opportunity, and thankful for the Charlottesville community being willing and having the desire to want to come out and volunteer in their community. We are incredibly thankful to S&P Global as well as United Way for facilitating this,” Achenbach said.
A little Wiffle Ball
WorkSource Enterprises and Crutchfield Corporation teamed up and rented three softball fields at Darden Towe Park for a Wiffle Ball tournament for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They also cooked up and served for all in attendance.
“I think it’s a really great thing, and it’s so good to get the community together and to do something nice for other people,” Jenny Glazebrook with WorkSource said.
WorkSource provides day support for disabled adults including classes, activities and community events in Charlottesville and neighboring Louisa and Nelson counties. The organization has participated in United Way Day of Caring in the past, but this was the first year it has hosted a Wiffle Ball tournament.
Volunteers from Crutchfield, a home and automotive audio supplier founded in Charlottesville, helped play in the games and hand out lunches.
“It’s really cool to be out here and a testament to the willingness of people to serve and help out and have fun,” Erik Swartzwelder with Crutchfield said. “Day of Caring means to me a time to step back, reset, reprioritize, recalibrate and focus on what’s important. We can get lost in the day-to-day stuff. This is a great reminder that people generally are good and are willing to help and serve. It is crazy how many volunteers and how much work is done all across the area.”