U.Va. Volunteers Donate a Day to the Community

September 23, 2010

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Matt Kelly:

September 23, 2010 — Working as shipwrights, landscapers and bingo callers, more than 1,100 University of Virginia employees performed community service Wednesday as part of the Thomas Jefferson Area United Way's annual Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring.

University employees took part in about 100 projects during the annual community volunteering day. U.Va. is among the many local employers that provided a total of about 2,500 volunteers.

Many enjoy the challenge of doing something different, such as computer technicians who pick up hand tools and work with wood. 

"We can see the results of our work," said Debbie Mincarelli, a human resources manager for Information Technology and Communication, who was sanding a keelboat at the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center at Darden Towne Park.

Mincarelli and her colleagues worked on two boats, a keelboat and a pirogue, replicas of vessels Meriwether Lewis and William Clark used in exploring the Missouri River in 1804.

"We have the only historically accurate, river-ready Lewis and Clark replicas in the world," said Francis McQ. Lawrence, a member of the center's board of directors.

Volunteers cleaned, sanded, painted and varnished the boats and painted picnic tables.

"I think it's terrific and wonderful what they are doing," said Sally Thomas, another member of the center's board. "They are doing jobs that are labor-intensive and getting a lot accomplished."

Many of the U.Va. employees said they wanted to give something back to the community.

"U.Va. employees continually demonstrate their generosity, willingness to volunteer and their support for numerous causes," said Jim Fitzgerald, associate director of community relations in U.Va.'s Office of Public Affairs. "Their collective efforts throughout the year have a significant impact right here in our community."

Leonard Sandridge, U.Va.'s executive vice president and chief operating officer, talked about this impact and the contributions of individual volunteers earlier that morning at the kick-off breakfast.

"We are making the community better, one person at a time," he said.

Sandridge noted that he had known Laurence E. Richardson, a longtime United Way volunteer after whom the day's initiative has been named, and that the University had been involved with the effort since 1992.

"This is a great way to help the community," said Kathleen "Kai" Sherman, who works in the College of Arts & Science's psychology department child development labs. She volunteered at Camp Holiday Trails, a facility for children with special health needs. "At the labs we work with children and the Camp Holiday Trails works with children, so we thought that helping them was a good thing we could do."

The day was also an opportunity for University employees to get to know one another better. Candace Graves, a special projects manager with ITC, said many of her co-workers are spread out at different facilities, and it is through efforts such as this that they can spend time together on a project.

"This is my chance to serve the community," said Peter Thorsen, who works with UNIX systems. "And I get to work with people here that I don't get to work with at work."

Some enjoyed it because it was a chance to work in a different way with someone they see every day. Others, though, worked the same way with the same people. About 80 volunteers from Facilities Management worked at Camp Holiday Trails on Wednesday, many of them skilled craftsmen who are used to working with each other.

"We cut trees, planted shrubs, spread mulch, installed electric fans and ducts in the bathrooms, installed pipe insulation, built a tool shed, cleaned every building, worked on the roof gutters and repaired roofs," said Bill Farish, a maintenance supervisor with Facilities Management. "This is Facilities Management's way of giving back to the community. I've volunteered for the 10 years I've been here. And Camp Holiday Trails is one of the areas that needs the work."

The Facilities Management crews were spread around the camp, working on many projects simultaneously.

"I like to help the kids," said Mike Crawford, a roofing supervisor who helped with roof repair and assisted with putting a new top on the pond's spillway. "It's a real good cause and we get away from the monotony of what we do every day."

U.Va. volunteers also cleared trails and removed invasive species at the Ivy Creek Natural Area, washed windows at the Senior Center on Pepsi Place, mulched and spruced up at the Westminster Child Care Center on Rugby Road, and cleaned, repaired and painted at Camp Albemarle.

They also operated a bingo game for senior citizens at The Golden Living Cedars Nursing Home, freshened up student artwork at Cale Elementary School, delivered food for Meals on Wheels of Charlottesville/Albemarle, cataloged and organized books at Scottsville Elementary and served as "lunch buddies" with students at Stone-Robinson Elementary.

"Our enthusiastic employees tackled projects ranging from shredding papers to remodeling," said Lis Christian, Day of Caring administrator for U.Va.'s Community Relations office. "This annual event captures the energy of over 1,100 eager participants from the University's Academic and Health System divisions, and both our community and our employees benefit from this experience."