A blast of horns and the beat of drums drifted over Carlton Road Wednesday as members of the University of Virginia Cavalier Marching Band entertained clients at WorkSource Enterprises, where U.Va. volunteers ran a carnival complete with games like “chuck the chicken,” a fortune teller booth and a visit from a “Stars Wars” storm trooper handing out cupcakes.
“It’s the best day of the year,” said Dave Ripley, director of University Human Resources, as he looked around at the crowd of orange “Team UVA” T-shirts and the swirl of smiling faces. His department has hosted the carnival for six years as one of more than 100 U.Va.-sponsored projects in the annual United Way Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring.
WorkSource Enterprises serves about 400 people with mental disabilities from Charlottesville and nearby counties, providing job training, employment and support services – and the occasional special activity, like Wednesday’s fair.
“It gets bigger and better every year,” Charles J. McElroy, WorkSource president, said.
Ripley said his team of about 60 volunteers couldn’t do it without the support of Susan Carkeek, vice president and chief human resources officer, and assistant vice president Darrell Kozuch, plus donations of food and T-shirts from the University Bookstore, Athletics, Housing, Aramark and a local business, The Party Starts Here.
“Everyone pitches in and does what needs to be done,” Ripley said. “The clients look forward to it for weeks.”
“I think the U.Va. staff enjoys it as much as the clients,” Carkeek said, adding that she has participated every year.
Janet Turner-Giles, manager of U.Va. Temporary Services, concurred, and added, “We’re in human resources to help people. What could be a better way to help people than coming here?”
Drew Cook, a marching band director, has brought a group of students four or five times, he said. “It’s one of the best events. The students get a lot out of it spiritually. And their music connects with the patrons,” he said.
Nearby, 2012 alumnus Rodell Tolliver turned over his drumsticks to one of the clients, who played a steady beat and rapped while others danced.
Tolliver said when Cook called him to join the band members for the event, he was happy to play again. “It’s so rewarding,” he said.
More than 1,000 University of Virginia employees volunteered through the annual Day of Caring, completing more than 100 projects at 54 sites. Teams – about half from the Health System and half from the Academic Division – tackled a range of projects, including painting, landscaping, construction and more. The Day of Caring serves non-profit organizations and schools in the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson counties.
At the Barrett Early Learning Center, a team from University Advancement’s prospect development office donned work gloves and raked the playground, while another group from SNL Financial painted rooms inside. The children took a field trip to Carter’s Mountain while the volunteers spruced up the day care center.
“It’s nice to help local nonprofits or schools whenever we can,” U.Va. team leader David Bowes said. He and Jennifer Huebner, another development researcher, agreed that they enjoy the opportunity to share camaraderie with coworkers outside the office.
Eunice Garrett, director of the Barrett center, said the volunteers provide “tremendous help that we’d otherwise have to pay for. They’ve done so much for us.”
Chris Doran of Student Financial Services led a team of 40 volunteers working inside and outside at the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA. He and his wife, Sarah Doran, who works in the same office, said their participation in the Day of Caring began three years ago with a specific, personal purpose: They worked with Habitat for Humanity on the house of a U.Va. coworker.
Since then, they’ve done different projects each year, including reading to schoolchildren. This was their first year at the SPCA, where their team cleared and mulched dog-walk paths in the woods, scrubbed the kitten hall and transport vans, and scrubbed and organized the kitchen.
“This day reminds us of the importance of volunteering,” Chris Doran said. “We’ve helped a variety of agencies that have volunteers working every day. We get a lot of satisfaction working with our colleagues in a different way.”
Lis Christian of U.Va.’s Community Relations Office has organized the U.Va. teams for four years, with the help of Dawn Niles at the Health System Community Relations, Outreach and Service Office. Christian gave a shout-out to the Fresh Market grocery store for donating a delicious breakfast for all the volunteers.
“The community effort that goes into this event is the highlight of my year,” Christian said.