Neighbor-helping-neighbor kindness was evident as more than 1,000 volunteers spread out Friday across the Columbus area.

While responsibilities differed from site to site, every person involved carried out the same basic mission during the annual United Way Day of Service.

“What it’s really all about is people coming together to help those who have challenges in their lives,” said Mark Stewart, president of the United Way of Bartholomew County.

About 20 Faurecia volunteers pulled weeds, trimmed bushes, put down mulch and mended broken fences at a home near 14th and Union streets.

The house is occupied by an elderly woman who recently went through a long hospitalization, site leader Holly Brotzman said.

“The landscaping is something she takes a lot of pride in, but can no longer keep up,” Brotzman said. “She loves her garden, and told us a lot of friends used to come over to look at her yard.”

So the volunteers rolled up their sleeves to make the property look like new.

“I hope the lady is pleased with it when she gets home,” fellow Faurecia volunteer Lisa Deburger said.

Porch repair

About nine blocks away, a team of five volunteers from Dorel Juvenile Group were joined in a backyard near Central Middle School by Cummins Inc. retirees Jim Lannan and Steve Butler.

For the benefit of a heart attack victim, the group joined forces to rebuild a back porch demolished by a tree that fell over during a recent storm, group leader Jim Kahlenbeck said.

While working on similar projects with his church, Lannan learned that many people in Bartholomew County are unable to either physically or financially perform such work.

“Many times, it amounts to just cleaning up the trash, but even that is more than they can handle,” Lannan said.

In a sincere but humorous gesture of unity between two manufacturers, the Dorel employees consented to name their team in honor of the two Cummins retirees, Kahlenbeck said.

“We call ourselves DOGS, which stands for Diesel Old Guys,” Kahlenbeck said.

Smoke alarm assistance

In another project near 11th Street and Grand Avenue, United Way volunteer Jennifer Ehara found herself knocking on doors on behalf of the American Red Cross to offer free smoke detectors to those without them.

Ehara’s team, which included Cummins volunteers Paul Hartstirn and Dennis Emmatty, were warmly welcomed into the home of Christine Taylor.

“This is great, because it could possibly save somebody’s life,” Taylor said as Hartstirn installed two of the devices in her residence. “This really takes a load off my mind.”

The time and energies of the mother of two have largely been spent this year tending to her son, Benjamin, who is recovering after a late-December accident placed him in the neuro intensive care unit of an Indianapolis hospital.

What else?

Other projects undertaken by volunteers from companies and organizations such as Enkei, Toyota, Franciscan Alliance, Walmart and Target include:

House painting for an elderly woman on Gilmore Street, near Columbus North High School.

Extensive exterior maintenance at a homeless shelter near 16th and Maple streets.

Interior work and outside landscaping for disabled residents at a group home on Fairlawn Drive.

Interior demolition of the old abandoned firehouse near 13th Street and Hutchins Avenue.

Installation of new playground equipment at Columbus Youth Camp.

While most of Friday’s volunteers live or work in Bartholomew County, six who went door-to-door making smoke alarm installations are enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

They had visited Columbus while attending a two-week weapons training class at Crane Naval Base, about 25 miles southwest of Bloomington, petty officer Candice Cantrell said.

“The residents here were so good to us during our time here, so we wanted to give back to this community in any way we could,” said Cantrell, who is from Los Angeles.

For some, the local involvement of out-of-state military personnel might symbolize what happened after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when rescue personnel from across the country traveled to New York City to assist in whatever way they could.

The national United Way Day of Service was created as a way to honor the memory of the first-responders who died that day.

“It ties together,” Faurecia volunteer Brady Lofton said. “We came together as a country after 9/11. Today, we come together as a community to serve those who need our help.”

By the numbers

United Way of Bartholomew County Day of Service

1,022: Number of volunteers contributing time and talents

82: Number of projects tackled Friday

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5636.