Despite rain, Rowan United Way Day of Caring still a success
By Shavonne Walker
“It’s a tepee!” Gracie Osborne screamed in excitement.
The 5-year-old was getting a sneak peek at the outdoor project being created for her and the other children at Partners in Learning. The tepee stood about 12 feet high and was suspended a few inches off the ground and supported by wooded beams.
The project was one of many being brought to life by hundreds of volunteers through the United Way of Rowan County’s annual Day of Caring. The event creates an opportunity for volunteers to take on projects for businesses and schools. The businesses and schools come up with projects, be it painting, building or landscaping, and the volunteers spend the day making it happen.
Volunteers gathered before the work began at the Hurley Family YMCA for breakfast supplied by the Rowan Rotary Club and Salisbury Kiwanis Club. Then they spent much of the day working on projects.
The tepee was an idea Partners in Learning Director Norma Honeycutt found on the online pin board site Pinterest. The children will use it as a reading area.
“We have a natural learning environment and are always looking for ways to keep it natural. Our kids spend lots of time outdoors,” she said.
Past projects taken on by Day of Caring volunteers have been a creek, a music garden and a reading hut.
“I’m very grateful my job allows me to do this,” said Joan Correll.
Correll was one of seven volunteers from Akzo Nobel who helped put the tepee together.
Correll has volunteered on Day of Caring for the last 15 years.
“I believe in the United Way, in what they do, the people they help and I’m just glad to be a part of it,” she said.
Project Coordinator Paul Robertson has also been volunteering on Day of Caring for the last 15 years and has been coordinating projects since 2009, he said.
On Wednesday, the volunteers put up the wooden frame for the tepee and returned Thursday to complete the project. The project involved finding a small trampoline mat that was pulled taut and a waterproof canvas as a cover.
Robertson said the Akzo Nobel group took on another project at Knollwood Elementary School to create a lost-and-found box as well as a bench inside a multipurpose room.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Liam Hasselman getting inside the tepee.
The weather kept a group from the city of Salisbury from completing their outdoor reading project at Southeast Middle School, but they have plans to continue today, said site coordinator Brad Walworth.
Walworth is a Southeast guidance counselor and the on-site liaison for the project. The volunteers started Wednesday by erecting a wooden open structure and intended to cover it with a metal roof on Thursday. The reading room is 14 feet by 20 feet.
Walworth said in the future, the school would like to add picnic tables under the outdoor reading room, and possibly walls. The reading room is located on the side of the property in a courtyard that leads to the library. The courtyard has been the spot for past projects at the school including a memorial garden, landscaping and a sidewalk project.
There were seven volunteers from various city of Salisbury departments who took on repairing the front porch at Capstone Recovery Center, a nonprofit that offers transitional housing, life skills and job training for women recovering from substance abuse.
Chris Tester, project coordinator with the Salisbury Streets Department, is in his first year coordinating a project, but has been volunteering with Day of Caring for the last five years.
He said he continues to volunteer because the people they help do a lot of good helping others.
Capstone Director Miriam Ramirez said the porch flooring had rotten spots and simply needed to be replaced.
Ramirez said she’s grateful for the volunteers who worked on the project and to the United Way for choosing Capstone as a project location and for their continued support.
Wendy Barbee, a program participant, said the work that’s being done on the porch is amazing.
“It shows the spirit of giving and shows how God can work through people to give back to people,” Barbee said.
Angela Lesmez said she was thankful for the repairs. Lesmez said she often went outdoors to sit on the porch when it was a pretty day outside.
Dr. Oscar Ramirez, a therapist for the center and husband of Miriam, said the porch had been a safety concern since the nonprofit acquired the house.
The next priority for the nonprofit is to purchase the house.
There were about 260 volunteers working on 30 Day of Caring projects Thursday, of which 24 were schools and the rest were nonprofit organizations.
Day of Caring Chairwoman Denise Hallett said this year was unique in that they tried to keep the school projects in sync with Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody’s strategic plan, which is a focus on literacy.
Many of the school projects involved work in media centers, visual learning projects and reading gardens.
“There was a lot of variety, some outdoors and some indoor projects,” Hallett said.
“These projects we hope will make a lasting impact on these students down the road,” she said.
This year’s funding partners for Day of Caring were the Blanche and Julian Robertson Foundation and Cheerwine.
Hallett gave a nod to United Way Finance Director Melissa Robbins and Jackie Harris, the campaign and marketing director, for the hard work they put into coordinating with volunteers and securing materials. Hallett said Robbins and Harris started the work on this year’s Day of Caring last year.
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.