United Way Day of Caring returns to in-person volunteering
Volunteers are a lifeline for nonprofit organizations like the Literacy Council of Western Arkansas, where Bente Eriksen is the executive director.
“We still need volunteers to tutor, to help,” said Eriksen, adding that the organization needs people to help with programs such as ESL, citizenship and language development. general education.
Through the Day of Caring hosted by the United Way of the Fort Smith Area, volunteers helped the Literacy Council maintain their outdoor classroom with landscaping and general cleaning.
“We want to do more community work. That’s why we have this outdoor space… so that people from all walks of life come here and have a shared space, ”Eriksen said.
United Way Day of Caring is an opportunity for volunteers to give back to the Literacy Council and other United Way community partners who invest in their communities in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.
The annual event returned on September 16 with in-person activities and more than 500 volunteers after hosting a version of “social distancing style” in 2020 during the early stages of the pandemic.
Before dispersing to their service projects, the volunteers gathered in Fort Smith and Booneville for a kickoff breakfast.
In Fort Smith, at the Riverfront Amphitheater, Mayor George McGill praised the group for its impact on the community, and Suzy Wilson, chair of the United Way’s Fort Smith area board of directors, announced that 30 organizations have raised 651 $ 204 as part of United Way’s annual Pace Setter campaign.
At Abilities Unlimited, a center providing services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Van Buren, volunteers planted flowers, painted the storage building and painted the interior of the main building.
A group of volunteers also teamed up with Abilities Unlimited customers in a cooking contest, which has been part of the organization’s Day of Caring for about 10 to 15 years.
“It builds relationships and communication between the client and someone they don’t know. For our guys, informal communication is a very difficult thing for them to manage, ”said Bill Loyd, Executive Director of Abilities Unlimited. “It gives them a chance to work on this communication skill, get to know someone new, and have fun at the same time.”
Fort Smith Community Services Clearinghouse volunteers electrically washed the building, landscaped and re-painted the interior of the pantry.
“Carrying out these big projects… is important to us because we only have six employees here. We can’t do these things without Day of Caring, ”said Aubrey Spear, office manager of the Community Services Clearinghouse.
Malea Hendrickson, who has volunteered with First National Bank at the Literacy Council of Western Arkansas, has participated in Caring Day for over nine years.
“United Way Day of Caring is one of my favorite days of the year to come and volunteer… (The Literacy Council of Western Arkansas) has a great cause, and I just wanted to come and help,” Hendrickson said.
For other volunteer opportunities with the United Way of Fort Smith region and community partner organizations, contact Carrie Terry, Community Impact Coordinator, at 479-782-1311.
Catherine Nolte is a member of the body of Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. She can be contacted at [email protected] Southwest Times Record and Report for America are working to place a new generation of journalists in community news organizations across the country. Are you supporting this effort today?