Galvanized under the theme of "United We Serve Children," United Way of Central West Virginia will undertake its 14th year of a "Day of Caring" public service throughout the region on Wednesday, Sept. 18.

On the annual Day of Caring, government employees, church members, business people, school groups, nonprofit organizations and other teams of individuals pitch in their time and "sweat equity" for a variety of service projects throughout the United Way of Central West Virginia's service area. The service area encompasses Kanawha, Putnam, Clay, Boone and Logan counties.

Service projects include volunteer work for residents, in need of various home or yard repairs or other upkeep or assistance, in the service radius. Painting, landscaping, weatherizing and gardening chores are among the range of benevolent endeavors requested. Many of the volunteers work for and with senior citizens during the day.

Last year's Day of Caring entailed approximately 1,100 participants from about 70 separate entities, United Way of Central West Virginia President and CPO Margaret O'Neal said. The goal for 2019, she said, is at least 1,400 volunteers. At press time, more than 900 volunteers have enrolled for this year's Day of Caring, to engage in more than 70 projects throughout the region.

"Our Day of Caring theme, 'United We Serve Children,' is rooted in the belief that our future relies solely on the kids," O'Neal said. "Ask yourself - how am I working to nurture and care for our smallest and most vulnerable citizens? Nothing is more critical for the future of our state."

The United Way Day of Caring is the largest, annual, one-day volunteer event in central West Virginia now, the agency says, growing steadily in participation since its first year in 2006, when 26 volunteer teams, involving 230 volunteers, worked on 30 projects.

"After 14 years, Day of Caring remains our largest and most impactful event," United Way of Central West Virginia Community Services Director Lisa Hudnall said. "Volunteers return year after year to serve and engage in the fellowship that takes place. Lasting relationships between area businesses and nonprofit organizations emerge. It really is a heart-warming day all around."

"We proudly support them and have for many years, at least 15 or more," said Kelly Woodyard, business banking relationship manager with Huntington Bank. "We typically have anywhere to 10 or 15 volunteers. This year, we have 15 signed up.

"Last year was probably our largest project and we had close to 20 volunteers," Woodyard added. "At the Cabin Creek Health Center walking trail, we designed, installed and painted a sensory activity trail that goes all the way around their playground for their children. We've done things at the animal shelter, Mountain Mission, the YWCA and some of its programs, and landscaping. ... It gives our organization and our colleagues a way to give back to the communities where we live and work, and we're looking forward to this year's event."

Eric Halstead of Charleston Area Medical Center teaches Radiologic Science classes at the University of Charleston and said he and his students have participated in the Day of Caring for more than a decade.

"This will be the 14th year for the Radiologic Science group at UC. We average about 50 students who participate every year. Our goal, through the years, has been to reach every one of their projects at some point and time, if possible. Part of the University of Charleston's mission statement involves community service. We work with these agencies and make a connection with them. As a group, we go back to them. It's been a wonderful experience," Halstead said.

He said this year's Day of Caring project for the UC students will take place at The BARN Community Center, which stands at the site of the former Nellis Elementary School, in Boone County. ("BARN" is an acronym for the towns of Brushton, Ashford, Ridgeview and Nellis.)

"We're glad to go help them for a full day and help them do whatever they need us to do," Halstead said.

Online volunteer signups concluded on Aug. 16.

The Day of Caring event will kick off at 8 a.m. Sept. 18 with a light breakfast served to participants at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston. Arriving volunteers can also check in at the kickoff ceremony. O'Neal and other speakers will address the volunteers before they embark on their projects that day at approximately 9:30 a.m.

More information about the Day of Caring is posted at www.unitedwaycwv.org/day-caring or by contacting Lisa Hudnall of United Way of Central West Virginia at 304-340-3521 or lhudnall@unitedwaycwv.org

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