September 24, 2009 — University of Virginia employees showed their community spirit Wednesday as they performed volunteer work as part of the United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area's annual Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring.
About 1,000 volunteers fanned out into the community, taking part in about 100 projects ranging from making blankets to painting and cleaning to raking mulch and cutting brush for area non-profits.
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"U.Va. employees give so much in support of our community throughout the year," said Careen Waterman, U.Va.'s Day of Caring administrator. "Participation in the Day of Caring was no exception, as U.Va. employees provided thousands of man-hours of volunteer labor in support of our area's schools and nonprofits."
And U.Va employees are glad to help.
"We enjoy the experience and it helps bring about positive change," said Tim Breeden, circulation manager at the Morris Law Library at the School of Law, who joined about a dozen colleagues in painting the kitchen and dining room of the Salvation Army's Center of Hope on Ridge Street. "It is also a break from our routine and real team-building opportunity."
Breeden and his coworkers covered an institutional white with a Romaine-green paint, adding a brighter white for the trim. In the kitchen, volunteers moved the 10-burner Vulcan gas stove and some stainless steel counters away from the wall to get access with their paint rollers, while others used brushes on the trim.
"This is a tremendous benefit to us," said Josh Kaufman-Horner, director of the soup kitchen and the Center of Hope's transitional housing office. "This will make it more inviting for people to share a meal. Our residents will be thrilled."
The kitchen serves up about 250 meals a day – using mostly donated food – to residents of the center and to walk-ins, most of whom are homeless, according to Kaufman-Horner.
"We serve whoever feels in need of a meal," he said.
Local animals also benefited from University employees' generosity. Volunteers from the Darden School of Business admissions office dusted, cleaned and arranged clothing racks at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Rummage Sale store on Preston Avenue.
"We do anything they ask us to do," said Kathi Grant, assistant director of admission at Darden. "And we are all buying stuff."
Store manager Sharon Johnson said the volunteers were a definite help.
"They are doing things that we don't get a chance to do," she said. "It makes the store more attractive. It's nice to have the extra hands."
The workers said their volunteering is reflective of Darden.
"Making a better society is part of the Darden mission statement," Grant said. "We are doing our part. It is also a bonding experience for members of the department to be able to work and talk together outside the office."
A team from the University's Office of Environmental Health and Safety enjoyed the sunny weather while working at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad on McIntire Road. They were cleaning inside and outside the building, painting the exterior trim and washing vehicles.
"We like to take a little time out and make a contribution," said Tom Leonard, a bio-safety officer. "We all feel a little better when we leave."
He said that the Office of Environmental Health and Safety interacts frequently with local emergency services, so it was appropriate that they worked at the rescue squad.
A team from U.Va.'s Housing Division also worked outdoors, doing landscaping work and painting at the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center on Ivy Road. They also sanded and rubbed teak oil into some wooden outdoor furniture used by patients and families at the hospital.
"It is a chance to bring our multi-talented team into the community," said Nykki Critzer, a financing and data support technician with Housing, who said there were volunteers from housekeeping, maintenance and the administration at the site. "It brings everybody together and it gives back to the community."
Teams from Facilities Management participated in projects at Lane Field, the Senior Center and Camp Holiday Trails, among others.
Some Day of Caring teams worked all day and others divided the day, with one team working in the morning and a second in the afternoon.
The United Way established the Day of Caring in 1992 as a way of showing what people working together can do for a community. It was renamed the Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring in 1999 to honor the late Larry Richardson, a long-time United Way volunteer and past president of the Charlottesville Broadcasting Company.