By Joe Beck -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- The Front Royal-Warren County United Way's Day of Caring began Friday with a record number of volunteers assembling at Fantasyland to perform a record number of projects waiting for them throughout the community.
By mid-afternoon, Lee Smith-Osina, the agency's executive director, said the Day of Caring had more than fulfilled its early promise. More than 120 volunteers had completed work on all but three or four of 24 projects intended to improve the homes and brighten the lives of town residents.
Beyond mere numbers, there was the satisfaction of the volunteers and the gratitude of the elderly, disabled and poor who were recipients of the volunteers' free labor, equipment and supplies.
"Everything I am getting from people, they are extremely excited," Smith-Osina said.
Wanda North, 50, of 332 Duncan St., was among those elated at the work being done on her home.
Kelley L. Miller, vice president of New Look Kitchen and Bath, arrived early in the day with an all-volunteer work crew who set to work immediately on remodeling the kitchen. By the time they were finished at 3 p.m., North had a kitchen with new flooring and cabinets, fresh paint, and new electrical wiring, trim and a shield over the stove.
"It looks like a brand new kitchen," North said. "They didn't just come inside and slap it up. They did it right."
"I'm really shocked," she added, "because I didn't know the United Way did something like this. It's sure a big difference, like night and day."
North is on oxygen that helps her fend off the effects of COPD that grew out of cigarette smoking and asthma. Her mother, Leta, 74, is also on oxygen and dependent on a wheel chair for mobility.
North found her way onto the Day of Caring list of projects when she initially called Help with Housing, a non-profit organization in Berryville. Help with Housing contacted Smith-Osina to see if she could find someone to install new flooring.
That someone turned out to be Miller who heard about the Norths' plight through a fellow member of the Rotary Club. North's kitchen was Miller's 5th consecutive Day of Caring project. She called it her biggest effort yet, a task that required her to begin work the day before to complete it on time.
"Literally, we're doing a complete makeover in 48 hours," Miller said as she stood amid power tools and cords snaking along the pavement in North's driveway.
Miller studied to be a social worker before she entered the kitchen remodeling business 29 years ago. She cherishes the Day of Caring as an opportunity to combine the skills she gained in the remodeling business with her old instincts for helping society's underdogs.
"We enjoy doing this," she said of herself and her crew. "We get a lot of joy out of it."
Smith-Osina said this year's projects were the most ambitious and technical she has seen for a Day of Caring. The efforts around the community were marked by new gutters, paint jobs and replacement windows in addition to the new flooring and cabinets installed at the North home.
"It's been much more technical this year, and it's been spectacular thanks to people like this, " Smith-Osina said of Miller and her fellow volunteers.