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Volunteers lend hands, services in Day of Caring
AT&T volunteer Bryan Welker helps build a swing set for SAFFT in Cumming on Friday. - photo by Autumn McBride
A sea of people in blue shirts set out Friday with what Pastor Bob Jolly called “united hands.”

More than 500 lent their helping hands to nonprofit organizations throughout Forsyth County during United Way’s annual Day of Caring.

Angie Fitts and a crew of her AT&T coworkers spent their Friday morning working at the Supporting Adoption and Foster Families Together, or SAFFT, visitation center.

The group worked together to finish assembling a playset for the center, which provides a safe place for children separated from their biological families to visit one another.

Fitts felt lucky to be working on a building project, but she said would have helped in any way.

“We’re blessed to have good jobs,” she said. “This is our opportunity to give back to the community.”

AT&T, with 154 people, had the largest volunteer group attending the event. The volunteers spread out to several locations across the county.

Employees Sharon Bleifield and Christine Colborne visited a first-grade class at Cumming Elementary School.

“We get to go to recess with you guys,” Bleifield told the students. “We don’t get recess at work.”

While outdoors, some of the students went over sight words with the volunteers at a picnic table.

Bleifield said she often donates to charities since she doesn’t have much time to volunteer, but jumped at the opportunity to get the “instant gratification” of hands-on helping.

“It was so nice to have extra hands today,” said teacher Christine Pendleton.

Like many volunteers from companies, Bleifield and Colborne don’t live in Forsyth County but still wanted to help.

Several county residents joined in to make a difference at home.

Students from Forsyth Academy, Pinecrest Academy and Horizon Christian Academy took some time out of class to volunteer.

Civic organizations made a big showing among the 32 volunteer groups. Among them: the Lanier Jaycees, Leadership Forsyth and the Rotary Club of Forsyth County.

Rotary members took part in what president Shan Mize called an annual tradition of yard work at Jesse’s House, a home for girls.

While putting down pine straw, he said the Day of Caring spreads awareness about the volunteer spirit.

“There are people out there that do care about this community,” he said.

Organizers were “thrilled” with the turnout, said Leigh Crow, director of resource development for the United Way.

“They helped a lot of organizations with the basics of being able to serve others, like sorting food in food pantries or organizing clothes in thrift stores,” she said.

The volunteers received some food for thought at the kickoff breakfast, held at Jolly’s First Baptist Church, before spreading out across the county.

Speakers representing groups that partner with United Way paid homage to local organizations and volunteers.

Sara Wilson, who now works with Family Haven, shared a tearful story about how the organization for abused women got her back on her feet.

“I’m grateful to see how you go out of your way to help others like me,” she told the volunteers. “You’re doing your job, and you make an impact.”

Other speakers shared stories of overcoming challenges such as autism, battles with cancer and recovering from drug addiction.