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Community Residents, Companies Work Together in Day of Action

Original Source - The Exponent Telegram

by Brittany Murray

Over 100 county residents and employees teamed up for the United Way of Harrison County’s annual Day of Action on Thursday.

“I think that is probably our biggest number ever,” United Way Executive Director Marie Battles said. “We had 100, plus the agency directors. It was really a very nice gathering.”

Day of Action started about seven years ago, though the United Way participated in Day of Caring for decades before then, Battles said.

“We changed the name to really indicate more movement as far as getting things done, making a difference and making change,” she said.

Many volunteers help with the event each year. But for some, Day of Action is the first time they’ve been to a United Way-funded agency, so the event raises awareness of each organization, Battles said.

“Each agency director starts by providing the volunteers a tour of the facility and talking about what they do, and then they get their hands dirty,” she said.

Six employees of Frontier Communications teamed up to clean the People’s Hospice Garden at Veterans Memorial Park in Clarksburg.

“Hospice is close to my heart because I just lost an uncle to cancer, and I know several others have people close to them that have lost people with cancer,” volunteer Cindy Morgan said. “It was kind of nice that we all got chosen to be here.”

This is the third year that Frontier Communications sent a team of volunteers to help with Day of Action.

“Last year we went to the Empowerment for Employment, and that was a fun day. Two years ago, they were here doing the same thing,” Morgan said.

Stefanie Caruthers, volunteer coordinator for People’s Hospice, was thrilled to see such an active group helping out this year.

“The volunteers are doing some pruning and some landscaping, and we are going to be weeding the bricks that people buy for People’s Hospice,” Caruthers said.

Day of Action is a wonderful program to help organizations such as People’s Hospice, Caruthers said.

“It means so much to us because the Hospice Garden is a place that families come to remember their loved ones and to pay tribute to their life,” she said. “When families do come, they can see it cleaned and in wonderful shape.”

Mary Binegar, operations director for the Harrison County YMCA, also was pleased to see a large number of volunteers this year.

“Last year we had a large group because we had Dominion,” Binegar said. “This year I was surprised because we have three different companies represented here. HealthSouth, Bombardier and Pratt & Whitney all sent people here.”

Battles was grateful to see such a diverse group of area companies take time from their business to give back to the community.

“It really is wonderful to see people who have a lot on their plate but are willing to put that on the back burner to help out with the program,” she said.

Having support through United Way volunteers is vital for organizations such as the YMCA, which has only a skeleton crew to complete jobs throughout the rest of the year, Binegar said.

“When they come in, they can fill in those gaps and do the detailed cleaning or help us with the flower beds, and it just fills a void that is very, very needed,” she said.

Pratt & Whitney employees Al Eastlack, Jeremy Mitchem and Monica Lucente teamed up with Linda Stalnaker of Bombardier to weed the YMCA’s outdoor gardens.

“We’re providing free labor for agencies that can’t really afford to hire people to do this kind of stuff,” Lucente said. “It’s fun for us because we all work in offices every day, so it’s nice to be outside in the sun and doing manual labor.”

The group has volunteered with Day of Action for the last three years and plans to continue their involvement as long as they can.

“I think it’s just about giving back to the community and giving back to these organizations and charities that help so many people,” Stalnaker said.

This was the first year of participating in Day of Action for the employees of HealthSouth in Bridgeport, who helped with cleaning and painting at the YMCA.

“It’s always great to give back to the community, so I was excited when our work said it was a go,” HealthSouth speech therapist Jennifer Johnson said. “I grew up in Harrison County and I still live in Harrison County, so it’s important to give back because it’s where I’m going to be.”

Judy McDonald, a unit nurse at HealthSouth, was helping Johnson repaint the walls of a recreation room.

“I think it’s great to always get out in the community and offer a helping hand,” McDonald said. “I’ve done a lot in the past, so it’s nice to be able to do it and be able to sponsor the United Way, which is great.”

Volunteers helped out at many of United Way of Harrison County agencies, including Central West Virginia Community Action Agency, Health Access, Empowerment Through Employment and Harrison Country Parks and Recreation.

“We’re just very, very fortunate to be able to participate in things like the Day of Action that unify us as a whole under the umbrella of United Way,” Binegar said. “We feel this is great because we’re giving to the community, and they’re able to come and help us too. So it’s a domino effect in helping people in our communities.”

New to this year’s Day of Action was a “Books for Babies” project sponsored by Depend.

“We were awarded a grant of nearly $5,000 to put together totes,” Battles said.

The totes, which were delivered to United Hospital Center to be given to new mothers, include books and bookmakers with helpful hints for reading to children.