By Kim Walter
As the volunteer registration deadline draws near for the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley's Day of Caring, the organization is reaching out to attract more individual and team participants.
The Day of Caring, set to be held on Sept. 11, matches volunteer teams with various projects in Winchester, and Clarke, Frederick and Shenandoah counties. The projects range from clearing brush in a senior citizen's yard, to painting a room in a nonprofit agency, to reading to children.
Joe Shtulman, president of the United Way chapter, said the day's events provide "opportunities for everyone."
Last year, more than 600 community volunteers came out to complete 115 projects. While Shtulman doesn't have a final count on the project or volunteer numbers, he knows there is always room for more.
The deadline for volunteer registration is Friday, Aug. 9, and project requests will be accepted for the next couple of weeks.
Local businesses can also help out by being a Day of Caring sponsor for $250. Shtulman said the funds are used during the event to purchase extra supplies and materials for project sites. The donations also help pay for a special Day of Caring T-shirt, which goes to each participant.
"We have about 24 sponsors right now, but I know we could use more," he said.
Most project requests deal with providing help to a senior who otherwise wouldn't be able to accomplish the task. This year, Shtulman thinks even more requests will come from seniors through a new initiative.
After a local senior needs study revealed that area seniors are most concerned about staying in their homes and living independently, the local United Way partnered with the AARP to provide a home fit workshop.
The workshop went over small and large changes that can be made to a senior's home, which will enable them to live comfortably and safely.
Shtulman said the workshop sparked discussion amongst a few occupational therapists with Valley Health.
"They've offered to go into seniors' homes in the area and do assessments to see what kind of retrofitting needs to be done," he said. "It'll be things like installing guard rails, replacing doorknobs, and providing non-slip rugs."
The assessment results will then be passed along to Day of Caring teams, which will retrofit the homes.
Shtulman added that even though the idea was initially to help senior citizens, it could also include the homes of individuals with special needs or disabilities.
"We know there are families out there who can't necessarily pay for these things that could really help their child or loved one," he said.
Volunteers can sign up as a team, but Shtulman said individuals are welcome to sign up, as they will be placed with a team. He said he welcomes large teams, made up of 20 or so people, as some projects require "a good number of folks."
Shtulman said the event would take on a special significance this year, as it falls on Sept. 11. However, he said he thinks the Day of Caring is a great way to recognize and honor the lives lost in any kind of tragedy.
In 2001, the Day of Caring was actually scheduled for Sept. 12. Shtulman said the organization considered changing the event date, but decided to go ahead with the original plan.
"It wound up being a great way for people to deal with their feelings," he said. "It's one day to get out and give back to your community ... it's always special for everyone involved."
Michele Wolford is assisting with the Winchester/Frederick/Clarke teams, and can be reached at 540-665-4358 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Allison Crawford is assisting with Shenandoah County teams, and can be reached at 540-984-6814 or Allison.email@example.com.
Any other questions can be directed to the United Way at 540-536-1610.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org