A day of caring

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 11, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Gary Payne has been touched by the helping, healing hand of United Way.

So on Friday, the crane operator at Earl Industries in Portsmouth gladly joined hundreds of volunteers from across Hampton Road in lending a hand during the nonprofit agency’s annual Day of Caring.

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The event, which sent about 2,000 volunteers to work for the day at United Way-funded organizations across the region, was the kickoff for the agency’s 2004 fundraising campaign.

Payne, one of 12 Earl employees who worked at Children’s Harbor in north Suffolk, has volunteered for United Way since he saw the impact the agency had on a friend’s life more than a decade ago.

&uot;I always volunteer for them,&uot; said Payne. &uot;I’m a believer in United Way.

&uot;I had a friend who died of cancer about 12 years ago. When he didn’t have any money for the morphine he needed for pain, United Way came through for him.&uot;

Ever since, Payne has come through for United Way, for years as the campaign coordinator at his former employer and now as an avid volunteer through Earl.

At Children’s Harbor, the group organized and stocked storage rooms, cleaned furniture and did all sorts of yard work.

First-timers Michele Heidt and Michelle Hammond, who working in accounting and sheet metal departments at Earl respectively, enjoyed working outdoors Friday.

&uot;We’re doing this to help United Way and to help the kids,&uot; said Heidt. &uot;It’s our first time out here.&uot;

But, they say, it’s not the last.

&uot;We’ll definitely be back next year,&uot; Hammond added.

Closer to downtown, more than a dozen employees from Ciba Specialty Chemicals offered their services at several schools and other sites.

Craig Romanelli, Ciba’s plant manager, took off his administrator’s hat for the day, spending several hours logging in new titles into the library computer at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School.

&uot;I hope I’m doing this right,&uot; Romanelli said, scanning the back of the book.

A couple of the 14 Ciba volunteers at the school worked inside in the library and math lab; the remainder worked outside, painting colorful letters and number of the kindergarten playground.

Down the hall, April Waydula, who works in Ciba’s inventory department, spent the day checking the inventory of colorful blocks and other supplies used to teach math to the youngsters.

Nearby, at the Children’s Center on Wilroy Road, another group of Ciba employees spent the day building gates, an emergency exit ramp and putting together new playground equipment.

&uot;It’s good to get out and do something different for the day,&uot; said Kevin Squyars, a service technician at Ciba.

Raising funds for United Way is always a major project for Ciba, Romanelli said.

Through the organization’s Pacesetter program, Ciba employees have raised $47,000 of its $55,000 goal for the year, Romanelli added. The employee contribution will be capped off with a $22,000 corporate contribution.

&uot;We’re very proud of our employees,&uot; he said