By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
On June 16, United Way of Etowah County hosted the 20th Annual Day of Action.
United Way’s Worldwide Day of Action is June 21, but the local agency tries to host the event on a Friday. United Way Help Me Grow Regional Coordinator Christi Mayo said that the agency gets a better community response when the event is held on a Friday.
The Day of Action is a campaign where local charities and organizations sign up to get projects done, and volunteers come out to work on the projects all together.
The Day of Action has grown a lot since it began to be held locally. The first year United Way of Etowah County held the event, there were only 12 volunteers. This year, there were 525 volunteers. There were 2,020 volunteer hours completed, which equals over $40,000 worth of labor.
“It has grown every year,” said Mayo. “More and more people, more and more projects involved.”
In the past, only United Way agencies were included in the Day of Action projects, but with so many volunteers, United Way expanded to include outside nonprofits and schools. This year 41 agencies participated, with 18 of those being United Way partner agencies.
“In Etowah County, we have a tremendous, caring community that really wanted to get involved,” said Mayo. “So every years it just grows and grows, so our number of projects we work on grows every year.”
This year the 41 agencies submitted 70 total projects to be worked on. These projects range from maintenance tasks such as cleaning, painting and landscaping, to specialized projects like delivering meals with MANNA and drafting wills for first responders as part of the Wills for Heroes program.
Some agencies submit multiple projects. For example, Success by Six prepared kindercamp backpacks, installed a new Born Learning Trail (an interactive trail that reinforces learning skills) at Walnut Park, refurbished three existing Born Learning Trails and read to daycare students.
Not all the projects undertaken are completed on the Day of Action. A large YMCA painting project was not finished, even with about 70 volunteers working at the location.
“It gives them a huge start on finishing a massive project like that,” said Mayo. “Some projects got finished early and those volunteers actually left that project and went to another project.”
This year, the United Way partnered with the Love Your Neighbor initiative, which works to refurbish South 11th Street. The initiative was hosted Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and United Way sent volunteers to assist with the project Friday.
The Gadsden City High School football players and cheerleaders volunteered during Day of Action. The athletes hosted camps for the Boys and Girls Club, with boys participating in football camp and girls participating in cheerleading camp. After the camp, the children returned to the Boys and Girls Club where Exchange Bank hosted a cookout for them.
To provide volunteers, local companies ask their employees to volunteer. This year, 64 companies participated in this manner.
Mayo said that these generous companies are not the only reason the Day of Action is such a big success.
“It’s become a family event,” said Mayo. “People bring their children, and so it’s parents and children out there working together.”
“My daughter [Kaylie] and I participate in United Way Day of Action every year,” said Christy Hood. “This year we painted at the YMCA with our Riverview team. We love giving back to our community.”
Volunteers begin working at 8 a.m. and come to Gadsden Convention Hall at 11:30 a.m. for a lunch sponsored by Riverview Regional Medical Center and Gadsden Regional Medical Center. Drinks are sponsored by Buffalo Rock. Other sponsors of the Day of Action include UPS, United Steelworkers Local 12, Blackstone Pub and Eatery and more.
After participating, volunteers filled out cards for United Way to give feedback on the Day of Action. Many expressed how grateful they were to give back to the community.
“Today was one of the best experiences ever!” said Trayon Miller. “I believe that everybody should do volunteer work. It makes you feel good inside and it also humbles you.”
One volunteer anonomously shared her touching story.
“I had the opportunity to give back to an organization that helped me several years ago. We painted bedrooms at the 13th Place today, which is a children’s home that my sister and I stayed at during a difficult time for my family. The bedroom I painted was actually the same bedroom that my sister and I slept in during that time. It was very meaningful for me to be able to give back in some way and it reminded me of how far I’ve come.”