United Way event seeks to rally 500 volunteers

United Way of Bartholomew County is inviting residents to volunteer to help area nonprofits in the agency’s first Day of Caring.

During the June 19 event, volunteers can choose from a range of community projects. They could include painting homes or changing out windows to distributing books to children or cleaning up trash along Columbus’ trail system, said Kyle Hendricks, the United Way’s marketing and communications coordinator.

The program is similar to the United Way of Bartholomew County Day of Service, a one-day community effort each Sept. 11 that takes on community projects. An estimated 1,700 adult volunteers participated last fall in more than 30 community projects.

Hendricks said he expects more than 500 volunteers to participate in the inaugural June event, many of them supplied by corporate sponsors and partner agencies. United Way also has made a marketing push to get local community members involved, he said.

“The overall purpose of the event is to bring the community together on a day to give back to the community,” Hendricks said.

Although volunteers get to chose their activities, some of the work — such as putting in drywall or plumbing — requires special skills and volunteers with those skills, Hendricks said.

In addition to United Way, many of Columbus’ other nonprofit organizations are getting involved.

For example:

Columbus Bicycle Co-Op will build a wall to hang bikes in the basement of the United Way.

Book Express, a literary outreach program that travels by bus to neighborhoods and community programs, will be driving around Columbus distributing books to children. The literacy bus also shares ideas, activities and materials to support parents’ efforts in helping their children become readers.

Volunteers will be working at the Columbus Housing Authority to help maintain its residential properties, said Deborah Holt, the housing authority’s executive director. The organization’s public housing manager, Jill Sharp, will help coordinate volunteer participation.

Sharp said she hopes that the event will diminish a stigma that some people have about public housing by seeing the affordable housing properties firsthand and having volunteers interact with tenants.

Volunteers will be washing windows and vacuuming apartments at Sycamore Place, a housing authority property, Sharp said.

“When someone talks about public housing in cities, they label it as crime-ridden and drug-ridden, rundown and no one would want to live there. … That is not the case here in Columbus,” Holt said.

The Columbus Park Foundation will use Day of Caring as an opportunity to promote its Adopt-A-Trail program, said April Williams, project and resource development director for Columbus Parks and Recreation and the foundation.

Volunteers will be assigned to pick up trash along portions of Columbus’ People Trails.

But the day won’t be all work, Hendricks said.

A barbeque will be offered to volunteers and the general public for $5 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Proceeds from the barbecue will go to the United Way.

About the United Way

United Way is a global nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the quality of life in local communities through community-led volunteer efforts. United Way organizations operate in almost 1,800 communities and 40 nations.

The United Way of Bartholomew County, which has 22 member agencies, is led by President Mark Stewart. About 4,000 people volunteered with the organization last year, completing about 16,000 hours of service.

It is located in the Doug Otto Center at 1531 13th St., Suite 1100. Phone: 812-376-3001

How to volunteer

Those interested in volunteering for United Way’s Day of Caring can register at http://www.uwbarthco.org/volunteer-day-caring-2015 or email Joy King at jking@uwbarthco.org.