With more than 22 teams of 400 volunteers and counting, the United Way Day of Caring was the biggest ever.
United Way Executive Director Ruth Goode said it’s going to be a tough year for fundraising, but if Friday’s turnout is any indication, perhaps recruiting volunteers won’t pose the same problem.
“It’s a tough year for everyone ... the need is so much greater, but I think people will both step up to the challenge, both monetarily and voluntarily,” she said. “This community always steps up.”
Volunteers of all ages were spread at nonprofit organizations, including the Forsyth County Family Center, where several different volunteer projects were in action.
Hannah Roach, a sixth-grader at Horizon Christian Academy, was busy putting together gift bags for new mothers.
Through the Born Learning initiative, all mothers who deliver at the Northside Hospital-Forsyth Women’s Center will receive a bag filled with educational materials, tips, tricks and information on early childhood education.
“We want to help out children and women who need help with their babies, and we just love to help the county because we know they need help,” Roach said.
“We’re all a team here in this country. There are a lot of other countries that are not as fortunate as we are, so we like to help.”
Next door, Tyson employees were working at Whispering Hope, a women’s resource and pregnancy center.
“As [one of] the largest employers in the community, we need to give back and do our part,” said volunteer Tricia Vines.
The Southern Staircase team spent their day at the Hope House. Susan Hoffman, one of the volunteers from the team, said half the fun is the surprise of the location.
“We do it every year... wherever they send us, that’s where we go,” she said. “I walk away thinking that I hope they feel as good as I feel, because I’m there to make them feel good, but yet, I walk away feeling great.”
Over at the Forsyth County Senior Center, even the sporadic drizzle didn’t stop Publix employees from beautifying the entrance. Outside, it was all manual labor, but for the remaining Publix employees, it was all fun and games.
It was only his second time calling Bingo, but Mike Fronzak had dozens of senior citizens laughing, clapping and, most importantly, calling “Bingo!”
“It seriously is like a Christmas. It’s one of those days we look forward to every year,” he said.
“You see an enjoyment. If you talk to the director, she just says that it’s the largest crowd they get every year ... the smiles are just awesome, that’s what makes my day.”
Friday morning began before 8 a.m. for volunteers, who met at First Baptist Cumming for a short breakfast, before heading out to their respective locations.
After about three hours of work, volunteers met back at the church for lunch and to officially kick off the 2008 United Way Campaign.
During lunch, future Lambert High School Principal Gary Davison addressed the volunteers.
Davison, the 2008 campaign chairman, announced this year’s fundraising goal of $1,672,000. Considering their 2007 contributions of $1,610,034, this year’s asking price wasn’t much of a stretch.
“We really didn’t grow our goal,” Goode said. “We just want to have every bit of [our goal]... we really have to have that.”
During his address, Davison asked the volunteers to become part of the “we,” or everyone working together to make the community flourish.
“Whatever resources you have at your disposal, give them to someone in need. Everyone has something valuable to give,” he said “Sometimes the most important thing you can do is just spend time with someone.”
“This year we have more people that are in need than we have ever had before.”