WINCHESTER — The United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley kicked off its annual fundraiser Wednesday with the Day of Caring, which brought in more than 1,000 local volunteers.
The event brings together volunteers from area businesses and organizations to complete fundamental projects and services for area nonprofit agencies, community facilities and people in the Shenandoah Valley seeking assistance.
Wednesday’s event broke last year’s Day of Caring attendance record of almost 900 volunteers.
The local United Way chapter serves Winchester and the counties of Frederick, Clarke and Shenandoah. Its annual fundraising campaign, which helps fund other nonprofit organizations, officially started during the Day of Caring and will continue until Dec. 31.
During a kickoff meeting at Lord Fairfax Community College on Wednesday morning, Campaign Chairwoman Susan Arthur said this year’s campaign has so far raised $411,749 — 37 percent of its $1.1 million goal.
Last year, the campaign exceeded its $1.1 million goal by $18,449.
United Way NSV President and CEO Nadine Pottinga hopes to top last year’s fundraising efforts.
“That’s always the goal,” she said. “The more money we raise, the more we can give out. That’s what we are striving for. The [$411,759] number is the most we’ve ever raised this early.”
To help set the pace for fundraising, 27 organizations started their fundraising early in June. Scott Arthur, market executive and senior vice president for Winchester’s Union Bank & Trust, said the pacesetters had set a goal of $110,000 and ended up raising $308,835 as of Wednesday.
During the kickoff, people were given the chance to donate $3, $6 or $9. A third of donated money will go toward the United Way Impact grants, a third to Hurricane Harvey relief and a third to Hurricane Irma relief.
This year more than 1,000 volunteers were sent to work on 110 different projects. United Way NSV estimates that Day of Caring volunteer work hours equal a donated dollar amount of more than $152,000.
“We had a wonderful day,” Pottinga said after most of Wednesday’s projects had wrapped up. “We are hearing back from so many of the projects that were completed. There are a lot of appreciative nonprofits and a lot of exhausted volunteers.”
Navy Federal Credit Union employees went to the Middletown Volunteer Fire and Rescue Station where they were given the task of painting railings, cleaning tables and cleaning the kitchen.
Granville Ruckman Jr., a trustee with the fire company, said because the social hall is home to bingo nights, it can get quite messy. He said he appreciated the help and called the support from Navy Federal “overwhelming.”
“I think it’s just important to give back to the community, and United Way is a great way to do that,” said Tracy Gagliardo, a volunteer with Navy Federal. “They organize everything and you just have to show up.”
About 45 volunteers from the Trex Company came to 2400 Roosevelt Blvd. to build five picnic tables and paint several classrooms for the benefit of the Kids Club of the Northern Shenandoah Valley.
Heather Forman, executive director of the Kids Club, said Trex also donated four benches. She said Trex’s help in painting middle and high school classrooms took care of a need the club couldn’t afford, as it is currently paying $60,000 a year in rent for the building on Roosevelt Boulevard. The club did not pay rent when it used the Douglas Community Learning Center, on Kent Street, which is part of Winchester Public Schools.
The Kids Club plans to conduct a capital campaign to purchase the Roosevelt Boulevard building from owner Rao & Shields so it will have a permanent home. Forman previously told The Star she expects the capital campaign to raise about $3 million to purchase the building and complete several capital improvements: The building doesn’t have air conditioning, it needs more kitchen equipment and the parking lot has “major” potholes and needs to be paved.
“I’ve never even estimated anyone to professionally paint because it’s just not in our budget to pay anyone to paint,” Forman said. “We are so excited. Our playground was just one big blank fenced-in area. Now we have benches, we are going to have picnic tables for kids to sit and play.”
Habitat for Humanity had volunteers work on several projects in the city’s North End. Program Director Julia Fielding said close to 30 volunteers from First Bank and the Shenandoah Valley Teen Challenge in Shenandoah County came to assist with Habitat’s projects.
One of the projects was installing siding at a residence in the 400 block of West Lane. The project involved measuring, cutting and installing multiple-level boards at a consistent height on different sides of the home.
“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is labor-intensive,” Fielding said. “Every board has to be in-line with every board next to it throughout.”
In 2014, Habitat purchased 11 housing units — on West Lane, Baker Street and Chase Street — to convert into owner-occupied homes. They were part of the former City Lights project for low-income renters.
Habitat For Humanity Executive Director Matt Peterson said three of the 11 homes were uninhabitable and had to be torn down. He said the home at 415 West Lane St. will be the first of the remaining eight to be converted from a rental home to one with an owner. He said the house should be complete sometime within October, if not sooner. The owner is a single mother, Elizabeth Arnold.
Some of the other activities performed by volunteers helping Habitat for Humanity included:
Scraping paint and repairing and replacing damaged wood at the Habitat for Humanity Office at 145 Baker St.
Reattaching the front step of the home at 413 N. Kent St. to allow safe access to the home for its visually impaired homeowner. The team also washed vinyl siding on the east and south sides of the home, as well as sidewalks covered in mold. They also repainted yellow marking on all exterior stairs to allow the homeowner better visibility when accessing her home.
“We’ve been doing this for a number of years,” Peterson said of Habitat’s involvement with the Day of Caring. “... We heavily emphasize community outreach and efforts, so we’ve taken on working with United Way on the Day of Caring as one of our annual community engagements. We love doing it and look forward to getting a lot of groups from across the locality to work with us and help us do projects that we couldn’t get done otherwise.”
For more information on the Day of Caring, visit the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley website unitedwaynsv.org/day-caring or contact the United Way office at 540-536-1610.
— Contact Josh Janney at [email protected]