Local nonprofit staffs are resting easier after 220 volunteers participating in United Way of Hancock County’s (UWHC) Days of Caring completed work left undone by the pandemic. And the week left a lasting smile on many volunteers’ faces.
“It feels like something normal again,” said one volunteer, as she took a break from washing cars at the American Red Cross on Monday. “With Covid changing so much and working remotely, Days of Caring is something we would do every year. It brings a sense of normalcy to be here, and it’s nice to give back to the community.”
Days of Caring is a weeklong service event coordinated by UWHC where local corporations and businesses send volunteer teams to be matched up with projects that help nonprofits in the area. The event is part of UWHC’s campaign kickoff and serves to raise awareness in the community.
Days of Caring is typically held in May but had to be rescheduled for the week of Sept. 21-25 because of the pandemic. The 26th Days of Caring saw 220 volunteers complete 61 projects at 16 agencies, with 872 service hours completed and a value of more than $21,000 to the nonprofits. The event reflects UWHC’s purpose to measurably improve people’s lives in Hancock County.
In my first year of Days of Caring as volunteer coordinator for UWHC, I visited many of the work sites throughout the week and found it refreshing. The UWHC Volunteer Center’s mission is to help others, to connect volunteers to service opportunities that increase the capacity of local nonprofits, and to educate ourselves on the community and its needs.
There was a great energy out there among the volunteers. They really enjoy helping, and many remarked that they look forward to it. It’s different to get to trade a keyboard and monitor for something more hands on, like wearing work gloves while walking through a wooded trail to clear debris or using sandpaper and rollers to paint a fence.
During Days of Caring, many learn new skills, enjoy spending quality time with their coworkers, and are emotionally moved when they learn about the nonprofit agencies and the needs in the community they service.
“A year or two ago, we helped out at City Mission (a shelter for the homeless). They gave a presentation about the homeless and what City Mission does to help them,” one volunteer said as she painted hallways at Family Resource Center last week. “All of us were crying — it was very impactful. We really enjoy this day.”
Many local nonprofits rely on Days of Caring to complete projects that small staffs with stretched budgets aren’t able to address. Jeff North is manager of Camp Fire of Northwest Ohio’s Camp Glen in Tiffin. On Wednesday, several crews of volunteers took care of wood splitting and chopping, trail clearing, cabin screen repair and blacktop line painting.
“We really depend on Days of Caring during the year for cleanup,” North explained to the volunteer groups. “I build my maintenance schedule around it and could never get this done myself or even with our staff. We are so appreciative of your help, and it means a lot to see the community out supporting us.”
Because of the stay-at-home order for the pandemic and resulting work schedule and location changes, many volunteers hadn’t seen each other since as long ago as February. Days of Caring proved to be a reunion of sorts — and educational.
Kevin Spradlin, a board member for UWHC for six years, learned to identify then trim out invasive plant species along the Blanchard River at Riverside Park on Wednesday.
“I have always enjoyed Days of Caring,” Spradlin said. “I enjoy giving back to the community, and it’s always been a fun change of pace getting out of the office to see first-hand the agencies and the essential services they provide. I appreciate the United Way and its positive impact on our community.”
This year’s Days of Caring volunteer teams represent Marathon Petroleum Corp., Whirlpool Corp., Freudenberg-NOK, Reineke & Roush Financial Planning Group, City Apparel, Fifth Third Bank, Gilmore Jasion Mahler Ltd., Findlay Flag City Morning Rotary, Friends Office and United Way of Hancock County.
UWHC worked with agencies and Hancock Public Health to put together COVID-19 safety protocols for each project.
To learn more about Days of Caring, visit liveunitedhancockcounty.org/days-of-caring. Email email@example.com if you would like to learn about additional volunteering opportunities. You can donate to United Way of Hancock County by visiting uwhancock.org/give.