Heavy rain postponed some opportunities offered during the annual Bartholomew County Day of Caring, but didn’t dampen spirits of the volunteers.

Friday’s daylong event connected employees of participating companies and organizations with local neighborhood and non-profit volunteer projects _ most scheduled to be completed outside.

With the wet weather and cold temperatures, volunteer numbers did not reach the 1,000 who gave their time last year to complete 106 local volunteer projects in Bartholomew County.

But rather than a washout, about half of the teams, representing two dozen companies and organizations, either forged ahead — or gave it their best shot, according to United Way of Bartholomew County Executive Director Mark Stewart. United Way of Bartholomew County sponsors the annual event.

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Among the most brave were 40 Cummins Inc. employees who donned ponchos in a downpour to clean one segment of the People Trail off Jonathan Moore Pike that wasn’t closed by flooding Friday, Stewart said.

About six Centra Credit Union employees put together Safe Date packets on behalf of Turning Point Domestic Violence Services. And although organizers didn’t expect any more than 400 assembled packets, the Centra volunteers enthusiastically vowed to far exceed those expectations before they left, they said.

Some companies use the Day of Caring as a team-building exercise that encourages co-workers to bond together and tackle unexpected challenges, Stewart said.

But Centra Vice President Bill Mahoney had a different motivation.

“You don’t get many opportunities to say I made my world a little better place today,” he said.

Centra employee Shannon Edwards offered a different reason after reading the information in the Safe Date packets.

“A lot of us have kids,” Edwards said. “I would want my children to have this knowledge.”

The Day of Caring has evolved over the years to a level that focuses on what Stewart calls “the human connection.”

“The volunteers learn an appreciation for folks who have had different upbringings than they’ve experienced,” the United Way director said. “It also allows them to see the impact they are having when working side-by-side with nonprofit employees.”

The Day of Caring luncheon at Mill Race Center was simple: burger, chips and a cookie to go. That’s because most volunteers don’t want to stop working on their projects to attend an sit-down luncheon any more, United Way Service Coordinator Joy King said.

Traditionally, Day of Caring projects through the years have included small home repairs, planting flowers, mulching, painting, organizing and sorting donations.

“It’s an event that we’ve kind of molded to suit the needs,” said Whitney Loyd, United Way Director of Resource Development.

In practice, the May event is similar to the national United Way Day of Service, which will be Sept. 15 to officially kick off the organization’s annual fundraising campaign, Loyd said.

But while the fall activities try to make an impact where it’s needed most, an extra effort was made during Friday’s projects to familiarize volunteers with local non-profits.

“I didn’t know much about Turning Point until today, when I had a chance to meet everybody,” said Natalie Poindexter of Centra Credit Union. “I had no idea of all the services they did.”

When Enkei America volunteers came into San Souci to sort donated items, many thought the nonprofit used a handful of employees to run a thrift store for local charitable purposes, San Souci Executive Director Sheryl Adams said.

But when they left, they understood San Souci takes nearly 30 unemployable people under its wing and pays them to receive training in a variety of job and life skills.

“Most just think they are donating to San Souci,” Adams said. “But really, they are providing a job and training for those who normally wouldn’t receive it.”

After organizing the event for a quarter-century, the United Way has learned that the word “canceled” should never used, King said.

Most who were unable to do their projects Friday will return exactly one week later to fulfill their commitment, King said.

While there’s no guarantee wet weather won’t be back May 12, Stewart said all 73 scheduled projects will eventually gets done _ no matter how long it rains.

“One year, it rained so often that the one-day event turned into the Summer of Caring,” Stewart said.

By the numbers

2017 United Way of Bartholomew County “Day of Caring”

Projects: 73

Percentage of projects postponed by weather: About 50 percent

Volunteers: More than 800

Participating companies: 24

Participating companies and organizations

“Day of Caring” participating companies and organizations: Adaptive Nursing; AK Tube LLC; AT&T; Bartholomew County Democratic Women; Blue & Co.; Centra Credit Union; Columbus Regional Hospital; Community Church of Columbus; Cummins, Inc.; East Columbus United Methodist Church; Edward Jones Financial Services; Enkei America, Inc.; Family Service, Inc; Faurecia; German American Bancorp, Inc; Mainsource Bank; Mission Columbus; Renaissance Family; Reising Radio Partners; Salin Bank and Trust, Co.; Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing; Vectren; Walmart (Whitfield Drive); White River Broadcasting.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.