September 21, 2012

Volunteers take on service projects throughout Midlands

Jamie Evermann was taking things personally as she pitched in with the weeding, painting and sprucing up Thursday afternoon at St. Lawrence Place.

As she surveyed the grounds around her, she was mindful – and hopeful – that many of the families served in the agency’s transitional housing program could one day take their places in neighborhoods like hers.

“It’s a great way to have an impact on the community,” Evermann said.

Such sentiments were being reinforced with similar acts of service throughout the community Thursday as part of the United Way’s Day of Action. The day, one of several held each year, pairs volunteers and businesses with nonprofit groups for service projects.

This year nearly 700 volunteers performed tasks, among them cleaning up neighborhoods and folding shirts for the upcoming Walk for Life.

The day was held in conjunction with the kickoff of United Way’s 2012-13 campaign — which featured a celebration at EdVenture Children’s Museum on Thursday evening — and underscores a push by the agency that giving and service work hand in hand.

“This gives people a hands-on experience,” said United Way volunteer center coordinator Bridgett Molony. “It lets them see the issues in Columbia.”

The volunteers at St. Lawrence Place are members of the United Way’s Young Leaders Society, which includes professional donors ages 21-45. For several hours, they painted porches and back doors at the apartment buildings, weeded gardens and played with the young residents.

Matt Morrison, a member of the Young Leaders Group, said the service was gratifying for volunteers, noting many may have only given money in the past.

“They really see the impact they can make and what a difference they can make,” Morrison said.

Evermann said service often leads to monetary giving as the volunteers feel more connected to a particular agency after seeing it up close.

“I think volunteering fuels financial contributions,” she said.

St. Lawrence Place was one of several work sites Thursday.

About 50 volunteers from Publix held a cleanup in a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood as they trimmed bushes and trees, raked leaves and collected trash.

At Carolina Children’s Home, Colonial Life volunteers painted doors, windows and basketball goal backboards, and landscaped the grounds.

“It’s incredibly moving to see so much involvement from companies and individuals in our efforts to improve the Midlands,” said Mac Bennett, United Way president and chief executive officer. “Combining Day of Action with the kickoff celebration was a natural choice that really allows us to celebrate everyone’s hard work and dedication to the community.”

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