For 16 years in a row, hundreds of volunteers have turned out in force to help the nonprofit community with maintenance and other projects that they are unable to get done on their own. They are living proof of the good we can accomplish by teamwork.
United Way of North Central Massachusetts, which hosts the annual event with a kickoff breakfast at the Four Points Sheraton, also uses the day to officially launch its annual campaign drive.
"We have 56 projects-from 46 agencies -nearly 500 volunteers from local companies, as well as over 1,500 students participating in their own school-based projects," said Abbie MacCallum from Bemis Associates in Shirley. MacCallum is this year's United Way Day of Caring chair.
MacCallum said the projects include helping nonprofit agencies with yard work, painting and other initiatives. "Due to personnel constraints, agencies aren't able to get the projects completed during the year, so they look forward to this day."
Several companies were lauded for participating in the daylong event: SimplexGrinnell in Westminster had 81 volunteers; Bemis Associates, 34 employees; Fitchburg's Simonds International, 21; and Fitchburg State University had 28 employees take part.
Participating schools included: Leominster Public Schools and Prospect Street Alternative School in Gardner, FLACC Collaborative Caldwell School in Fitchburg, Ayer Shirley Regional High School and Ruggles School in Barre.
Before heading out to their projects, Dave Baer, vice president of SimplexGrinnell and this year's campaign chairman, urged the community to create 365 Days of Caring.
He shared with the audience the results of a recent survey United Way conducted, which found that 80 percent of agencies providing basic need services experienced an increase in the number of clients needing services in the last 12 months.
Collectively, 44 percent of those agencies saw an increase in the number of clients seeking shelter or assistance for shelter/housing issues, while 75 percent experienced a decrease in government funding.
"Unfortunately, the numbers are sobering. However, we can make a difference by taking today and extending it for another 364 days." Baer urged the community to give to the 2011-2012 annual campaign drive, which raises money through corporate donations, employee giving as well as contributions made directly to United Way Community Impact Fund.
Following the completion of the projects, a barbeque was held at the Polish American Citizens Club in Gardner.
SimplexGrinnell and the Four Points Sheraton were the major sponsor for the Day of Caring.
United Way of North Central Massachusetts serves the communities of Ashburnham, Ashby, Ayer, Barre, Devens, Fitchburg, Gardner, Groton, Harvard, Hubbardston, Leominster, Littleton, Lunenburg, Pepperell, Shirley, Templeton, Townsend, Westminster and Winchendon.