GUEST COLUMN: 900 volunteers; 1 massive force for good

By Angela DeBoskey

What does 3,600 service hours in a week look like?

During our Spring Days of Caring event this May, it looked like 900 empowered volunteers working side by side in black LIVE UNITED shirts.

It looked like teamwork and team building as this incredible fleet of volunteers expertly completed 103 projects for 40 local agencies.

It looked like hard work with a whole lot of fun built in as teams pulled weeds and spread mulch, painted fences, heaved boxes and deep cleaned offices, planted flowers, cleared trails, and even helped build two houses.

And to myself and the staff here at the United Way, Days of Caring looked a lot like our mission in action: Measurably improving people’s lives in Hancock County.

This scale of volunteer effort has a way of making measurable impact in the community. Residents can readily see that public spaces have been beautified and that government offices and social service agencies have been spruced up for spring. Based on the value of a volunteer hour, we can also quantify the week’s efforts at about $144,500 worth of work having been contributed to local organizations. That's money these groups can save in labor costs and put directly toward their mission and services.

But Days of Caring also carries with it a value that cannot be seen.

According to Cleveland Clinic psychologist Dr. Susan Albers, volunteering has been shown to “decrease stress levels, depression, anxiety, and boost your overall health and satisfaction with life.” Dr. Albers adds that helping other people activates the reward center in our brains, releasing serotonin, dopamine and endorphins.

With 900 volunteers pitching in, that’s 900 individual experiences of heightened endorphin levels. That’s 900 people who may be inspired to explore other local volunteering opportunities that connect to their passion. And it’s 900 people who might just have a deeper connection to the community around them, just by helping out for one four-hour window.

This spring’s Days of Caring inspired some incredible stories that we are so proud to have helped facilitate.

There was the 102-year-old Findlay woman still living independently who had her yard beautified and checked for safety through our new collaboration with Backyard Mission Trip.

There was the team that spent the day mulching with a group of fifth-graders as part of the students’ math lessons; and the women who pressure washed a large cemetery monument ahead of a village’s Memorial Day program.

More than one group of youth were given the opportunity to do good in their community and to immediately see their volunteer efforts paying off for others.

But perhaps our favorite story is the one that starts with each of the 900 individuals who came together for one week to form one giant force for good. I thank you all for donating your time and talents, and I hope your generosity will inspire others to find ways to give back in meaningful ways. Explore your next step on our website at

DeBoskey is CEO of United Way of Hancock County.