September 26, 2011 — Working as carpenters, landscapers, painters and toy cleaners, more than 1,000 University of Virginia employees performed community service Wednesday as part of the Thomas Jefferson Area United Way's 20th annual Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring.
University employees took part in about 100 projects during the annual community volunteer day. U.Va. is among the many local employers who donated their employees' labor to the community; about 2,500 people in total volunteered on Wednesday.
"Through hundreds of different efforts each year, U.Va. employees reach out to help address area needs," said Ida Lee Wootten, director of the University's Community Relations Office. "Day of Caring highlights that service as employees provide thousands of hours of volunteer labor that benefits area schools and nonprofit organizations."
U.Va. employees participate for a variety for reasons, but many agree on one aspect of the work.
"It was fun," said Danelia Robinson, who works at the Center for Politics and was part of a 12-member team that painted two rooms and a hallway at the Barrett Early Learning Center on Ridge Street in Charlottesville.
"It's nice to see the look on people's faces when they are helping someone," Robinson said. "People were very cooperative and they were working hard to do a good job."
Robinson said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics, donated the paint, supplies and equipment needed to do the job.
James Zehmer, a project manager for Facilities Management, was part of a team demolishing an old bathroom structure at Camp Holiday Trails.
"Everybody likes to knock something down now and again," he said.
Zehmer said an important part of the effort was the teamwork. He said the 10-member crew of which he was part had the structure taken down and cleaned up by about 2 p.m., leaving the floor joists in place for a contractor to construct a new bathroom on the site.
"It is impressive to see the amount of work that can be done in one day if people pool their resources," he said. "There is also the aspect of working with people you don't get to see everyday."
Workers sometimes left an added personal touch. In the wake of cutting down a tree at the camp, University arborist Jerry Brown took his chainsaw and carved a bear sculpture out of the remaining trunk.
U.Va. employees were in a variety of different projects, from landscaping and cleaning at the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center, to cleaning, sorting and boxing toys at the Fluvanna Christian Services Society, to organizing files and scanning them into a data base at the Children, Youth & Family Services, Inc. in Charlottesville, and working as Bingo callers at The Cedars of Charlottesville.
"The positive power of volunteerism is evident throughout Day of Caring," Wootten said. "Several teams which were scheduled to volunteer only in the morning chose to return to their sites in the afternoon, bringing with them big smiles and an enthusiastic can-do attitude."