Volunteers unite for ‘Day of Caring’

Published 11:16 pm Friday, September 7, 2018

United Way of South Hampton Roads organized 1,202 volunteers from more than 40 companies on Friday for the annual Day of Caring, according to the press release.

They were tasked with completing 120 projects at various nonprofit organizations and elementary schools across Hampton Roads, doing everything from power washing and painting to landscaping and food delivery.

“Our employees love participating in Day of Caring so much that I start getting emails requesting spots months in advance,” Meredith Elliott, vice president of marketing and community relations for presenting sponsor TowneBank, stated in a press release. “TowneBank’s culture of caring strongly encourages engagement in our local community, and Day of Caring is an opportunity for our employees to pick a project or nonprofit that is near and dear to them and spend a day serving alongside their teammates.”


Email newsletter signup

Suffolk featured six different service project sites with volunteers from TowneBank, Bank of America, The Franklin Johnston Group, Sentara, BASF Suffolk and others, according to Kelsey Mohring, United Way of South Hampton Roads public relations and marketing director.

Volunteers from the Cherry Bekaert LLP public accounting firm in Virginia Beach joined others from Birdsong Peanuts to move wheelbarrows of fresh mulch at the ForKids Suffolk Regional Center for Children and Families that recently opened on West Constance Road.

More than a dozen volunteers between the two companies spread mulch on the playground in the Friday morning heat before they went inside the center to organize and move furniture. Like George Birdsong himself — who also came out to help — the volunteers from the peanut company wanted to help a local organization that was doing outstanding community service.

“It’s to help these families and these kids,” Birdsong Peanuts volunteer Cheryl Burdine said. “A lot of people aren’t as fortunate as the rest of us, and they need help. This is an opportunity for them to get the support they need to grow.”

Renée Pendleton, certified public accountant and partner at Cherry Bekaert, explained that she and her team were there to donate time and sweat for one of their critical clients in the community.

“It’s a great organization that does great things for every community that it’s in and we want to support those local communities,” Pendleton said as she spread mulch.

ForKids is one of the largest providers for homeless families in Virginia, according to the organization’s website, and it’s those volunteers that keep this nonprofit going. Capital Campaign Manager Sarah Carr said there were nearly 100 volunteers at five different ForKids locations across Hampton Roads on Friday, and numerous companies donated mulch, water, coffee and lunches for the Suffolk volunteers.

“I’ve ordered more lunches. I think I need to get ice cream today, too, because of this heat,” Carr said with a smile.

ForKids Chief Services Officer Sarah Johnson said the volunteers helped the center get the playground ready.

“I think the playground has been important for letting the kids just be kids,” Johnson said. “Letting them have those moments to just be kids is really important.”

Another family near Bennett’s Creek received ample assistance and plenty of paint.

About 11 volunteers from Dominion Enterprises were at the residence of Derwin Neasman, his wife, Tsige Bekhit, and their children, Nasiyah, 6, and Naomi, 5. Bekhit arranged for the volunteers to help repaint the interior through the EDMARC Hospice for Children.

Their daughter Nasiyah has leukemia, and her ongoing treatments can make other obligations fade into the background, Neasman said.

“With the cost of caring for a child with leukemia, it’s almost impossible to do just simple upkeep things with your home,” he said. “This definitely helps us tremendously.”

Site leader Eric Hinkle and his team had already gone through six gallons of paint before their afternoon lunch break. The foyer, upstairs hallway, living and dining rooms had fresh coats of tan color to go with the splotches on their shirts and pants.

Hinkle said it was his second year as part of a Day of Caring team, and the work remains gratifying. They gathered their ladders, rollers and paintbrushes when they were done and cleaned up the scene so it would look nice for when the girls got home.

“The Day of Caring is a beautiful display of the incredible impact a determined group of volunteers can have in just one day,” Carol McCormack, president and chief executive officer of United Way of South Hampton Roads, stated in the press release.