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Volunteers bring aid, energy to nonprofits
Day of Caring a success
Caring 6
A crowd of volunteers and United Way supporters listen to Sister Kathryn Cliatt talk about her work with Sister June Racicot. The two are responsible for starting the majority of nonprofit organizations in the community, including United Way. - photo by Jennifer Sami
Sandra Grady took Friday off from working with babies to work with toddlers.

Grady, manager of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Northside Hospital-Forsyth, was one of more than 450 volunteers to participate in the United Way of Forsyth County’s annual Day of Caring.

She spent her morning reading to and playing with a group of 3-year-olds at Forsyth County Head Start, which provides children of low-income families with early education and social services.

“They seem excited to have somebody different here,” Grady said of the children.

Grady’s 3-year-old granddaughter inspired her to help out. Other volunteers were equally excited for the chance to give back to their community.

And nonprofits were deeply grateful for the help.

Sandy Beaver, director of The Place of Forsyth County, said more than 70 volunteers helped organize the food pantry, change light fixtures and paint. They also cleaned the kitchen, sorted clothing and managed the landscaping.

“We have no money in our budget for any of this type of work, so these volunteers were critical to help us get it done,” she said. “They’re doing so many projects ... so we don’t have to stop seeing clients.

“They were ready to go this morning and they wanted to work and keep busy. They are really energized.”

Even the rain couldn't stop the volunteers, many of whom sported umbrellas or ponchos.

United Way Executive Director Ruth Goode praised their commitment.  

“They were soaking wet,” she said. “But it rained last year, so we’re kind of used to this by now. It doesn’t seem to deter the spirits of our volunteers, so it didn’t seem to be a problem.”

After a hard morning’s work, many volunteers returned to First Baptist Church Cumming for the 2010 fundraising campaign kickoff.

The luncheon featured musical performances by high school students, as well as speakers such as Sister Kathryn Cliatt.

Cliatt and Sister June Racicot are responsible for starting many of the county’s nonprofit organizations.

“People say, ‘How could you have done so much?’ We didn’t," Cliatt said. "The community did it. We simply facilitated it.”

The United Way's fundraising goal for the year is usually announced at the luncheon, but Goode said board members are still weighing the matter.

They’re not sure of the exact dollar amount, she said, though it likely will be about $1.5 million.

The focus Friday was on volunteer hours, said Michelle Prater, United Way staff member.

“Everyone has stepped up ... everyone did something,” she said during the luncheon. “The difference that you guys made today, just by the work that your teams did, could very well have changed someone else’s life.”

Grady described the experience as "very, very rewarding."

"It just really makes you feel good," she said. "I’m glad I took the day off to do this.”