By Erika Malone, Lori McDonald and Aubrey Woods
In the 27th year of Jackson County United Way’s Day of Caring, nearly 650 volunteers joined together Tuesday to help complete 68 projects.
The number of volunteers was nearly double from the more than 300 youth and adult volunteers who helped complete 62 projects for Day of Caring in May 2022.
The event is special because adults and students can set aside a day to provide assistance to someone they might not even know.
Volunteers gave up their own time Tuesday to help others in Brownstown, Crothersville, Medora, Freetown, Seymour and Vallonia.
Working to address some of the community’s needs, volunteers fanned out across the county to assist with projects, such as stripping outdoor chairs, erecting two-by-fours, pressure washing, painting and landscaping.
Two kickoffs were held early Tuesday morning, one at Heritage Park in Brownstown and the second at Crossroads Community Park in Seymour, where volunteers gathered to pick up T-shirts, work supplies, water and ice and ask last-minute questions. Breakfast also was served to the volunteers before heading off to their worksites.
At Crossroads Community Park, Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson read a proclamation declaring May 9, 2023, as Jackson County United Way’s 27th annual Day of Caring.
Chad Keithley, chairman for Day of Caring, also was there and said planning for Day of Caring starts way before March, but that’s when committees start meeting.
“It really takes an army to put all of this together, and we can’t thank the sponsors enough,” Keithley said. “Our two biggest sponsors this year were Nippon Steel and Rose Acre Farms.”
Chad Dixon, director of the Seymour Department of Public Works, also serves on the committee with Donovan Blanton and Eric Chase, who also work for the department.
Dixon said more people are taking the opportunity to lead and serve on committees, including those who might not have had an opportunity to do so before.
“This event and others are helping to turn people into leaders,” Dixon said. “It’s all about building people up.”
Also at Crossroads was Wayne Brooks with Seymour Kiwanis Club, who said he and four other club members had signed up to volunteer for Day of Caring.
“We’ll be going to a few individual houses today on Ash and Oak streets,” Brooks said. “I’ve been helping with this ever since it started.”
Emerald Robinson and her husband, Matt “Morty” Robinson, both work at JCBank in Seymour. They were at Crossroads waiting for the rest of their volunteer team.
”I’ve been doing the Day of Caring with the bank for three years now, and it’s always a great day,” Emerald said. “It makes you feel good to give back and to help the community.”
Lannett Co. Inc. was among the businesses participating in Day of Caring, with a team of six volunteers from the supply chain department.
The group of employees from the Seymour factory worked at Mary and Ralph Hurt’s home.
Mary uses a wheelchair, and she and her husband are unable to do the work that the volunteers completed.
”This is just fantastic that they’re helping us out today,” Mary said.
Matt Thompson, director of sales and operation planning for Lannett, said they thought Day of Caring would be a good opportunity for the department to have a team-building day.
“It’s also an opportunity to give back to the community and help people out,” Thompson said. “This will knock out two opportunities at once.”
Thompson and Lannett employees Brandon Howard, Jason Robinson and Tom Lewis reworked the Hurts’ flowerbeds by putting down landscaping fabric, planting plants, putting out steppingstones, shoveling dirt and placing landscaping timbers.
Peggy Peak and Rachelle Cozart stayed busy scraping and repainting an area on the Hurts’ front porch.
Peak said she has always wanted to participate in Day of Caring but never had the chance before because they had been so busy at work.
“I’m sure others from Lannett have helped before,” Peak said. “This is nice being able to help people.”
Volunteers with Centra Credit Union spent their day volunteering at the Jackson County Clothing Center on West Second Street washing windows, installing solar lights and booting up a new printer and computer for the nonprofit organization.
This is the second year the clothing center has been a Day of Caring project, and this year, seven volunteers helped there.
Madison Darlage and Jenni Carr both work at the Columbus branch of Centra Credit Union but said they enjoy helping out local organizations and the community with the rest of the credit union teams.
Sehrish Sangamkar, branch development manager for Centra, was the project leader for the team and has been involved with Day of Caring for seven years.
“It’s the day of giving,” she said. “It’s important that we come together to help our community. That is what Centra’s vision is to serve our communities, businesses and individuals.”
Sangamkar said this is one way for the team members to get involved in the community and walk through the door with pride. She also said Centra employees are encouraged to spend their time helping their communities by offering employees three paid days of family and community time each year for those to volunteer.
Cheryl Vierling, who operates the clothing center, said she was very happy and appreciative of Centra’s efforts and time spent at the center.
“Work like this makes us feel better serving our clients because they see a clean and organized building,” she said.
Many Schneck Medical Center employees put their hands to work at the Jackson County History Center in Brownstown as part of a Jackson County United Way Day of Caring project.
With 17 volunteers spread out on the property washing windows, carpet cleaning, doing yard work and working on other maintenance requests, the center was a hub of activity.
Stephanie Flinn joined Schneck in 2019 and has been involved with Day of Caring since 2021. On Tuesday morning, she went straight to work at 8:30 a.m. pulling weeds and spreading mulch in the flowerbeds at the history center.
“This provides people with the opportunity to volunteer their time helping local communities,” she said. “It’s also a way for us and others in the community to learn about different areas and see the needs these organizations need assistance with.”
Gloria Cross has been a volunteer with the history center for years, and without donations and volunteers, operations wouldn’t be possible.
“We really appreciate it, and it’s such a wonderful day,” she said. “A lot of the general maintenance for this place is hard for us to do because of our age, so the little things really help.”
Margo Brewer, also a volunteer with the history center, put in a request for a Day of Caring project.
“Our youngest volunteer is in the mid-60s, so it’s really helpful that these volunteers are able to do things we can’t do,” she said.
Project leader Mindy Roeder has been with Schneck for 11 years and so far hasn’t missed a single Day of Caring event.
“I love seeing the improvements that we are able to make in just one day,” she said. “Also, just going to different places and seeing new things, like the old medical offices and supplies here was really neat.”
Roeder said this shows how big organizations and businesses care about the community as the volunteers were getting paid their normal wages to help those in need.
“That’s a big number,” she said. “It’s good to know that the big organizations and businesses can also see the importance in helping the local communities, as well.”
A small but able and ready crew of three men from Cummins Seymour Engine Plant gathered early Tuesday morning at the historic Medora Covered Bridge for a Day of Caring project. Their task?
Scrape and paint three picnic tables and the faded white posts leading up the road from the park to the longest historic covered bridge in the country. They also were asked to pick up trash if they spotted any around the park or bridge, but Nick Walden with Friends of the Medora Covered Bridge said there probably wasn’t much since the park had recently been mowed.
Paul Bonney of Seymour said he decided to volunteer because he wanted to be part of Day of Caring so he could give back to community.
Bedford resident John McBride agreed.
“I like to give back to the community and just do one good turn for another,” he said.
Freetown resident Zach Hankins, who coordinated the project with Walden, said the morning was a homecoming of sorts for him.
“I lived here in Medora for three years of my life,” he said. “My freshman, sophomore and junior year, I went to high school here. It’s just my way of giving back.”
McBride, who took the time to tour the bridge before going to work, said he was impressed with how well it has been preserved. The 434-foot bridge, built in 1875, spans the East Fork White River east of Medora. It underwent a renovation project in 2011.
Walden said the work of the volunteers was important to maintaining the bridge and park for visitors, who number more than 20,000 each year.
“We appreciate all the help we can get out here,” he said.
Christy Nolan with the Seymour Noon Lions Club said 10 to 15 members were planning to show up at the Medora Town Park to tackle several projects.
“We are going to scrape down and paint all of the swing sets and benches,” the Crothersville woman said. “We’re going to sand off the picnic tables and stain those so they are good for the year. We’re putting down mulch and pea gravel in all the playground areas. We’re just redoing the playground and making it look nicer.”
Nolan said the club has an advantage over some of the larger companies who conduct Day of Caring projects each year. She said some of those companies won’t allow their employees to be more than 3 feet off of the ground and run power tools during Day of Caring projects.
“We on the other hand can run the power tools and we can climb the ladders,” she said. “We get the fun jobs.”
Dave McNabb, a member of the Seymour Noon Lions Club, said he thinks Day of Caring is a great idea.
“It’s good for the community,” he said.
Volunteers with Thrive Alliance Housing Partnership also spent time at the park replacing a door in a building there. They also planned to work on replacing and repairing soffit and fascia on the building, Gerardo Guerrero of Columbus said.