The Day of Caring: 1,000 volunteer time to help area nonprofits

Sunny Haas, a part time member of George's Chicken medical team, scrubs a privacy fence in the backyard of the new ChildSafe Center in Woodstock during the Northern Shenandoah Valley United Way's Day of Caring held on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK — United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley mobilized a record number of volunteers Wednesday for its 15th Annual Day of Caring.

Kelly Bober, executive director of ChildSafe Center,  expressed her gratitude for the event.

“Every year we ask the United Way for aid. With the help of George’s Chicken and the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, this is going to be a very special place for the kids” Bober said. “Like grandma’s house.”

For one day, volunteers from area businesses, groups and organizations come together to help others by doing fundamental projects for area nonprofit agencies like the ChildSafe Center.

Nadine Pottinga, president of the Northern Shenandoah Valley chapter, spoke of the importance of Wednesday’s event.

Ryan Orebaugh, human resources manager of Georges Chicken in Edinburg, scrapes the paint off a screen door at the ChildSafe Center in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

“It started 15 years ago with the intention that we wanted to get a group of volunteers together and give back to the community,” Pottinga explained. The Day of Caring has grown exponentially with this year’s being the biggest project to date.

Over 1,000 volunteers were deployed over three counties, and one city: Shenandoah, Frederick and Clarke counties and the City of Winchester. Over 100 projects were scheduled with 68 local teams completing them. Many of the companies that participate with United Way give their employees a paid day off to give back to the community. Pottinga estimated the value of the volunteer work this year to be roughly $150,000.

For many of the nonprofits that participated in the Day of Caring, the volunteers were invaluable. Many of the nonprofits like the ChildSafe Center, do not have the funds for projects like painting. By offering a community service project like Day of Caring, “their resources are put back into the things that matter; the children,” said Pottinga. “It’s invaluable to nonprofits to be able to offer this kind of service.”

Family Promise, American Red Cross, Sunshine House in New Market, and Shenandoah Valley Pregnancy Center were just a few of the other local nonprofits benefiting from the event.

The ChildSafe Center aligns with the same mission of United Way; its goal is to work with the community to meet human care needs that matter most to the people. The volunteers worked on readying a new facility for ChildSafe Center for its scheduled opening next week.

Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office investigator Scott Thompson assembles a cabinet in the therapeutic room of the ChildSafe Center in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

The ChildSafe Center has developed an innovative way to address the complexity of child abuse. If a child speaks up about a crime as a witness or victim, a complaint is made. That complaint then goes to the local social services office and follow the ladder of law enforcement.

“Children don’t want to be interrogated by multiple people,” Bober explained. By being able to create a safe space, the children can be interrogated in a more friendly, less intimidating way.

The ChildSafe Center sees more than 250 children a year, with a quarter of those residing in Shenandoah County. Bober explained that half of the children seen at the center are from Shenandoah County.

“We see children who’ve witnessed sexual assault, drug abuse or emotional distress. By creating silos or teams, it’s less traumatizing for the children,” Bober explained.

Ryan Orebaugh, George’s Chicken human resource manager, was one of volunteers working at the ChildSafe Center on Wednesday. “We’re here to make an impact in our community,” he said.

Manny Santiago, a safety coordinator for Georges Chicken, paints the back porch of the ChildSafe House. Rich Cooley/Daily

All of the staff members from George’s Chicken come from the counties touched by the Day of Caring. For them,  they said it’s important to give back.

Sunny Haas, of Mount Jackson, said it was her first year participating and that she knew how important it was to the center.

“I’ve been at George’s for a year,” Haas said. “I was recruited for Day of Caring, and I’m incredibly glad to be here.”

The Day of Caring kicked off at Lord Fairfax Community College with speakers, announcements of fundraising and celebrations. Costco sponsored breakfast. Throughout the day volunteers were spotted at Middletown Volunteer Fire & Rescue, The Kids Clubs of Northern Shenandoah Valley and Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness.

Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office investigator Paul Taylor assembles a desk at the ChildSafe Center in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily