Droves of volunteers turn out to participate in annual event
By Kathy Chaffin
Students at Rockwell Elementary School took turns cheering on the Milford Hills Baptist Church men working on their courtyard Thursday as part of the 12th annual Rowan County United Way Day of Caring.
Every time a new class came out, Kirby Adcock looked for his two grandsons, 9-year-old Chase and 6-year-old Adam. He still hadn’t seen them by 12:30 p.m., but Adcock was confident that he would.
Some of the students who had stepped outside to see what was going on shouted “Thank you” in unison. Several delivered thank-you notes to the volunteers, and one group even expressed its gratitude with an original song.
Thanks also arrived in the form of lunch, packed in paper bags decorated with written expressions of gratitude and colorful pictures. By then, the 12 members of the Milford Hills Baptist men’s group ó all wearing white Day of Caring T-shirts ó were feeling downright appreciated.
“We’re having a great time,” said Dennis Sims, who fellow members pointed to as the spokesman of the group. “It shows what individuals and churches and communities can do. United Way has done a great job of putting this together.”
This was the first year the men’s group had volunteered for Day of Caring, but they seemed to agree that it wouldn’t be the last. “I think we’ve all been blessed,” Sims said.
The Milford Hills Baptist volunteers ranged in age from 30ish to 79-year-old Marvin Burnette, who shouted from midway up a ladder that he will turn 80 on Oct. 9. Clyde Yates, who taught special education at Erwin Middle for 23 years, was the second oldest at 78.
After sharing an early breakfast with several hundred fellow Day of Caring volunteers at the J.F Hurley Family YMCA, the Milford Hills gang headed off to their work site. Within hours, the open frame of the pergola they built over the stage of the courtyard amphitheater was almost ready for the vines that will eventually cover it.
Another group working to install a fountain in the reading area had water coming out before 1.
Both additions added to the charm of an already beautiful courtyard nestled in the middle of the school, hidden from the view of passersby on Link Street. Principal Laura Kerr said her staff calls it “the secret garden.”
Kerr said everyone at the school was excited about the pergola and fountain. “We’ve wished for this,” she said. “This would have been a 10-year-plan for us if the United Way hadn’t found somebody to do it, and they’re doing it all in one day.
“We’re so appreciative.”
The courtyard will not only be available for students, Kerr said, but for people in the community to use as well.
Spence Brunson said Day of Caring was blessed by the weather. “You know it was supposed to be raining all day.”
Despite some scattered showers in the early morning hours, the rain held off for most of the day with temperatures in the low to mid-70s.
Across the county at West Rowan Middle School, Bob Smith said Thursday was the first Day of Caring it was cool enough to wear long pants, and he’s volunteered all 12 years. Smith was part of a group of volunteers from Performance Fibers and Mundy, its maintenance and construction company.
Their assignment was to dig out three to four inches of soil from the ground underneath the bleachers, cover it with landscaping fabric and top it off with gravel. Vance Meek, site coordinator for the football field, said they had three dump truck loads of gravel for the job.
“So far, no rain,” he said at 11 a.m. Thursday. “In fact, it’s actually been ideal conditions for this. It’s pretty cool so far.”
Over at the baseball field, four volunteers were applying a clear protective coat to the light blue paint on the wooden frame of the dugouts.
Bob Smith said he hoped his wife didn’t find out he was painting as he tries to avoid that job around their house. “I don’t like painting,” he said, “but I’ll do it because almost everybody doesn’t like it.”
Across the dugout from him, Joseph Lee said he hoped his wife didn’t find out what he was doing ó for a different reason. She teaches school at Erwin Middle, a rival of the West Rowan Middle Bulldogs.
On second thought, Lee said his kids, students at the school, would probably be the most upset by him working at West Middle.
Across the field at the other dugout, Henry Diggs said the assignment worked out well for him because all of his children are former students of West Middle.
“We enjoy doing this,” he said of the Day of Caring projects. “It’s a great team effort, and it’s just good to give something back to the community.”
Smith said the work was a nice change from their desk jobs at Performance Fibers.
Despite the kidding going on, Stan McConnell said, “We get along great at work, and we’re getting along great here.”
Jackie Harris, campaign/marketing director for the Rowan County United Way, said a record number of volunteers turned out for this year’s Day of Caring. “We thought we would have about 650,” she said, “but we probably had between 700 and 750.”
Harris said all of the 51 projects went smoothly. Only one group was not able to complete their assignment to paint the fence posts at South Rowan High School, and that was because of the damp weather.
“The paint wouldn’t do well in those conditions,” she said, so the volunteers from Rowan Regional Medical Center made plans to go back later and finish the project.
Overall, Harris said it was a great day. “It was one of the coolest days we’ve had,” she said. “We’re just very grateful to everyone who participated, whether it was by working or making lunch.”
This year’s Rowan County United Way campaign kicked off Friday as part of Family Night Out in downtown Salisbury. The goal for this year’s campaign is $1,971,200, which was lowered from last year’s $1,975,000 goal because of the faltering economy.
The grand finale is scheduled for Nov. 6 at the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA, during which a drawing will be held to see which lucky contributor wins a new car.
Salisbury’s five automotive dealerships ó Ben Mynatt Nissan, Cloninger Ford/Toyota/Scion, Gerry Wood Automotive, Salisbury Motor Company and Team Chevrolet/Cadillac ó are teaming up for the fourth year in a row to give away a new car.