Oct. 20—VALDOSTA — More than 100 volunteers were scattered throughout the city Friday, helping nonprofits for the annual Day of Caring event.
The Greater Valdosta United Way regularly sponsors the collaborative effort to benefit organizations through community projects. Staff from local businesses give their time to sorting donations, painting, organizing and cleaning and performing other tasks for nonprofits.
Though this year's event significantly assisted United Way agencies, it included a few entities not directly connected to the United Way, such as the Humane Society of Valdosta and Downtown Valdosta. The United Way helped 11 organizations.
Volunteers gathered on the front lawn of the historic Lowndes County Courthouse early Friday morning for a breakfast.
The Scott James Radio Show aired broadcast live from the courthouse before volunteers were released to complete their projects, which lasted into the early afternoon.
Boys and Girls Club of Valdosta
For volunteers from Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, the morning started off bright and early sanding walls at the Boys and Girls Club of Valdosta's Lake Laurie unit.
The women laughed with one another while preparing the quiet room at the unit.
Kristin Hanna, Boys and Girls Club vice president of marketing and development, said the room is used by youths to complete homework and work on academic enrichment.
About 100 children are served at the Lake Laurie site with the number increasing during the summer.
Shannon McConico, Wiregrass vice president for enrollment management, said staff members from the college normally find their way back to the Boys and Girls Club during the Day of Caring.
"With the Day of Caring, we've done this for many years, Wiregrass as a team," she said. "We enjoy giving back to the community."
She added the group requests helping the Boys and Girls Club because they "believe in this organization."
In serving those who serve others, Day of Caring aids nonprofits that provide resources to people.
She called the organizations "major staples in our community."
Bill Holt, Boys and Girls Club vice president of operations, said he loves having Wiregrass staffers help during Day of Caring because the staff members love being with one another.
"They know what they're doing," he said. "They come and they just get it done."
Hanna said Wiregrass volunteers have become longtime friends, consistently sanding cinder blocks in various rooms at the agency for Day of Caring.
The impact of Day of Caring and the United Way exceeds the Boys and Girls Club, she said.
"I think what's most important about the United Way is that a single family that has a need in our community is served by at least 10 of the United Way partner agencies. So, their child might come to the Boys and Girls Club. Their parents might've had assistance with LAMP or Living Bridges or the food pantry," she said.
"One family that interacts with the Boys and Girls Club has probably interacted with multiple United Way agencies, so when the United Way is strong, it means that all families have resources in this community."
Valdosta — Lowndes County Family YMCA
The Valdosta-Lowndes County Family YMCA received some much needed love and care to its foliage and shrubbery as part of the Day of Caring.
Through the years, the YMCA faced slight flooding from the river it faces, which has caused a wild amount of overgrowth.
Volunteers from Moody Air Force Base pruned and trimmed the overgrown foliage, then discarded the limbs in two 30-foot dumpsters, beautifying the area in the process.
Getting partners like them was a blessing, said Lawrence S. Tobey III, president and chief executive officer of the Valdosta YMCA.
Landscaping can cost thousands of dollars — a large expense for any business really — so having volunteer help is a boon, he added.
It allows funds to be allocated in other areas of the recreational facility like after-school and kids programs. It does wonders in pushing the needle forward.
"Anytime we can get some resource help, like Moody did today, it goes a long way of helping us reach our mission, which is serving a bigger part of the community with our resources," Tobey said.
Moody personnel also assisted The Haven in organizing sheds and storage units.
The storage units contained donations from multiple community organizations and residents, which aid The Haven in providing multiple services to the nine surrounding counties.
"We are grateful to our volunteers for helping organize our storage unit because we are thankfully always receiving community donations," said Heather Grizzle, forensic nurse and sexual assault response program coordinator. "The organization will help in assisting in re-assignment and organizing new donations as they are received."
Karen Yawn, The Haven's shelter manager, said she believes community partnerships have been a blessing both to The Haven's staff and clients.
Volunteer Ashley Coleman was surprised by the number of resources The Haven provides to the community.
"I had no idea that The Haven existed before today," Coleman said. "I am glad that we were chosen to volunteer here because I have learned so much and now have another resource to share with those who may need it."
Volunteer Janesiah Enzor shared her sentiment.
"It feels good to help with an organization that is working towards a bigger cause," Enzor said. "Now understanding the services they provide, it means so much more."
The Humane Society of Valdosta/Lowndes County
Not too far away at the Humane Society of Valdosta/Lowndes County, a group from Valdosta State University Career Opportunities and Volunteer Services were organizing the storage unit, disinfecting and cleaning animal beds and supplies.
"We are appreciative of today's volunteers helping us with tasks that would normally take us weeks to do," Tara Parker, executive director of the Humane Society, said.
The VSU volunteers said they were excited to help out for the first time.
"I really enjoyed myself today," Ethar Musa, a sophomore biology major, said. "It was a lot of hard work, but it was fulfilling to help out this cause."
Jazzmyne Davis, a senior health care administration major and ENACTUS member, also gave her time Friday.
"Overall, I learned a lot, and I am glad that (I) came out to volunteer," she said.
Thanks to the community partnership with the United Way, the Humane Society can provide extended animal education to potential or current pet owners, as well as animal training to adoptable pets, the Humane Society staff said.
Living Bridges Ministry
Groups at Living Bridges Ministry were in complete work mode, lending their efforts both inside and outside of the center.
While Pepsi volunteers had their hands full building a fence near the East Adair Street building, three Farmers and Merchants Bank staffers were doing administrative work indoors.
Jai Kinsey, sales management designate, was one of five Pepsi volunteers. After participating in Day of Caring for the first time Friday, he said he will be back again when the United Way sponsors its spring Day of Caring.
"Contributing to the community is something I've been big with, even with my hometown in Suwannee County in Live Oak, (Fla.), so that was something that was just big with me," he said. "Impacting the youth, impacting bringing everybody together, just being stronger together."
By helping with events such as Day of Caring, Kinsey said he's destroying barriers and being a part of something that's uniting people.
To Kinsey, businesses couldn't exist without nonprofits.
"I feel like they are what thrive and push the businesses, so giving back and getting out helping is just what I feel like is the right to do," he said. "I feel like it's our service and something that might be even our duty to do. ... Us giving back is just the right thing to do, to me."
Aside from volunteering their time, the Pepsi staff members also donated drinks.
Lisa Morgan, Community Reinvestment Act officer at Farmers and Merchants, was an organizer alongside co-workers Rhonda Storey and Cheryl Spikes.
Like Kinsey, she was a first-timer at Day of Caring.
While volunteering, she learned more about Living Bridges.
"I believe that, from what I've learned today about Living Bridges, it's a wonderful organization serving the needy, the low- to moderate-income persons," Morgan said. "I'm just so very happy to assist today, and I hope to be able to help them in the future; get more volunteers, whatever we can do. Not only the bank but just the community."
Darcy Gunter, Living Bridges Ministry co-founder, encourages more volunteerism.
Her ministry has participated in three Day of Caring events.
"First, it's an opportunity to share our story and share what we do. So many of the volunteers that come out aren't familiar with us or what we do, so it's a great opportunity to connect with more people and let them know what we're doing," she said.
"There are a lot of things that because our (service) numbers are so high, right now, we can't get to, and so, that's what these people are doing is projects that our ordinary, everyday volunteers would not be able to get to because of the amount of work that we're doing here and the fact that we don't have paid staff."
She added Living Bridges received a blessing through Day of Caring and it was as beneficial as receiving funding.
Though Girls on the Run of South Georgia is a United Way agency, it stepped off of the track to walk through Downtown Valdosta and collect trash.
The group partnered with Downtown Valdosta Main Street.
Claire Walton, agency co-founder and board member, said it is important to her organization to support the United Way.
"The Day of Caring is such a wonderful event," she said. " ... The event is a great way to get others involved who may not be familiar with the United Way, and then, they get to go to the partner agencies and help."
For Walton, the assistance is about building a sense of community.
Ellen Hill, Main Street director, noted the United Way is always seeking to further a partnership with downtown.
She said it's important for businesses to take time to aid organizations.
"Any time that a private business can reach out and help the nonprofits in the community, I think that just builds unity in our community, and I think it's really important for the private sector to come together and help out the nonprofit groups," Hill said.
Children's Advocacy Center of Lowndes County
Across town, Moody volunteers lent their services to the Children's Advocacy Center of Lowndes County where they did a lot more than just landscaping.
The CAC was happy to have the help as Moody volunteers took to performing some regular yard work.
This included pulling weeds from the greenery, laying out new pine straw, painting the playground, cleaning and organizing the shed, pressure washing the exterior walls and organizing the donations (bikes, toys, supplies, etc.).
Tech Sgt. Shelley Roberts said helping the community is important in many ways, especially being a non-commissioned officer.
The Valdosta-Lowndes community accepted the NCOs at Moody with a positive and encouraging attitude.
An NCO forges great community relations, Roberts said.
Noah Herrera took this to heart during his tenure at Moody.
"We're (always) being supported by the community, so well and so often, it was nice to be able to give a little bit of something back," Herrera said.
Second Harvest of South Georgia
With 50 registered volunteers from South Georgia Medical Center and Lowndes County, 1,330 senior pantry boxes were packed.
"It was wonderful to welcome Day of Caring back to Second Harvest and to have the energy of a large group of volunteers back in the building," Eliza McCall, agency chief marketing officer, said. "We hope that this kicks off a new post-pandemic season of volunteerism in our community. We definitely need the help to continue to feed those struggling in our area."
The American Red Cross of South Central Georgia
Both Jacob Bell, portfolio manager with Renasant Bank, and Kara Hope Hanson, marketing coordinator at Coleman Talley, said being philanthropic is a trait embraced by their respective companies.
They joined other Coleman Talley staff members and Municipal Judge Jeremy Baker prepping disaster-relief trailers and cots at the American Red Cross of South Central Georgia.
"I've volunteered the last four years at the Day of Caring," Hanson said, "and it's just a fun event every year that (we) get to bring the community together and do different projects."
She said the community wouldn't be able to go without the services of the United Way and its agencies.
During his college years, Bell was a Day of Caring volunteer.
Now returning to the event as the sole representative of Renasant, he saw another chance to serve.
"Renasant is a very relationship-oriented bank and partner within the community, so this is really what we try to do everyday, which is partner with the folks that's doing the work that's important here and contribute what we can to those efforts," he said.
Relating to the Red Cross, he said it is "the lifeblood of our community."
Terri Jenkins, agency executive director, said the work the Day of Caring group was doing was important because the trailers and cots could be needed at any given moment in the case of a disaster.
Jenkins said the Day of Caring is a chance to share the mission of the Red Cross.
"It's very critical that the community knows what the Red Cross stands for, what we do, and how we can help them in all kinds of areas and the volunteer opportunity that we have," she said.
Lauren Troxtel, agency disaster program manager, said the more people are educated about the Red Cross, the better the chances are for partnerships.
Visit unitedwayvaldosta.org for information about its partner agencies.