Volunteers take action

By Kaitlin Gebby
Posted 7/21/19

Volunteers played handyman Friday for the United Way Day of Action. The event is designed to help nonprofits check projects off their lists that otherwise might sit for years. Ten years ago with …

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Volunteers take action

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Volunteers played handyman Friday for the United Way Day of Action.

The event is designed to help nonprofits check projects off their lists that otherwise might sit for years. 

Ten years ago with around 150 volunteers, the United Way of the Ocoee Region organized its first annual Day of Actiont, where businesses donate their time and busy work schedules for a day of giving back.

Today, participation in the event has more than doubled. President and CEO Matt Ryerson said this year more than 300 volunteers were ready to mulch, paint, clean and renovate spaces in local nonprofits. 

The day started at 7:30 a.m. At Whirlpool, volunteers grabbed breakfast before heading out to their assignments for the day. 

At lunch time, returning participants had paint on their legs, mulch stuck to their shirts, smudges of dirt on their foreheads, and all of them had a smile on their face. 

“It’s rewarding,” Madeline Brooks, of Publix, said. “We repainted a parking lot and trimmed trees that were getting on their cars. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was something that needed to be done.” 

The Elders Ace Hardware team made a trip to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Polk County. There, they knocked down a wall to expand a classroom for the growing number of kids the nonprofit hosts after school. 

In addition, Ace Hardware provided all of the materials and supplies groups needed to get the job done on Friday for the Day of Action. 

John Rutter, director of marketing and innovation for the local Ace store, said the team used the opportunity as a day of bonding. 

“It gives us a chance to get to know each other a little better and network ourselves with the community we serve,” he said. 

Britt Debusk, director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Ocoee Region, said a group repainted their cafeteria.

Debusk said the project is something that wouldn’t have been done without the volunteers’ help, and it’s work that will last for the next three to four years. 

“It’s a huge day for nonprofits like us,” he said. “They come out and help us do jobs that just wouldn’t get done. They’d sit on our list for months, maybe years.” 

Ryerson said the event also draws attention to other areas of need in the community. 

“There are about 115,000 people in the Ocoee region, and about 50,000 of those people are living paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “They’re just one family crisis away from bankruptcy or homelessness … That’s why the work that we do today is important.” 

He said giving a leg up to nonprofits during the United Way Day of Action means the nonprofits they help have more resources to help those in need in bigger and better ways. 

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