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Day of Caring good way to honor first responders, service members

Emily Ritenour, Strasburg's tax clerk, paints an office inside Response in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Strasburg Town Manager Judson Rex builds a set of bookshelves in the basement of Response in Woodstock during the United Way's Day of Caring on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Dottie Mullins, Strasburgs director of finance, paints an office inside Response in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Kim Walter

WOODSTOCK -- The United Way Northern Shenandoah Valley considered not holding the Day of Caring on Wednesday, but Amy Keller said she is glad the date didn't change.

Keller, Strasburg's clerk of council, participated for the first time on Wednesday with a team made up of other town employees. She felt that Sept. 11, Patriot Day, was an incredibly appropriate date to hold the community service-centered event.

"On this day 12 years ago, so many people gave their time and lives," she said. "Giving back to your community and to people in need is a great way to honor those we lost."

Keller was among almost 800 volunteers in Winchester, and Clarke, Frederick and Shenandoah counties who formed teams and took on a variety of projects throughout the valley. Some teams helped local seniors who needed work done to their homes, while others did a few quick fixes to organizations that couldn't otherwise afford it.

The town of Strasburg team was responsible for working on indoor projects at Response, Inc. in Woodstock. Response is a Shenandoah County community organization dedicated to preventing and helping people overcome the problems of sexual and domestic violence and other forms of abuse through outreach, advocacy and supportive services.

All Response services are free and confidential.

Jennifer Morrison, executive director, said if it weren't for events like the Day of Caring, Response wouldn't be able to afford any necessary maintenance projects.

In fact, she said the organization has already benefited from the local United Way through a grant and fundraiser. Just over the past few months, Response has received $10,000 from the United Way.

The funds will go toward improving resume writing guidance and life skills training.

"So many folks that come to us say the first thing they need to do is find a job," she said. "And we want to help, so those funds will go a long way."

Strasburg Town Manager Judson Rex also participated at Response on Wednesday. His task was to build several storage shelves in the organization's basement.

Rex said one of the town's employees was approached by the United Way about forming a team, and when he heard about it, he couldn't help but say yes.

"As town representatives, it feels right coming out and helping someone in need," he said. "I think it's also a good way for us as employees to bond."

Rex said he also felt that the day's tone carried over into the work.

"You think about all the first responders and citizens who sacrificed so much that day," he said. "We can certainly afford to give back to our communities. You don't have to wait for a tragedy to reach out and lend a hand."

Morrison said she chose to look at the day as a "celebration of the human spirit."

She said that while Response is located in Woodstock, the organization impacts women and families from many other areas.

"If it weren't for the support of this community, Response wouldn't exist," she said. "We're a nonprofit, and we just don't have it in our budget to take care of upkeep. But I think days like this make me realize that a lot of people know how important we are, and what we do makes a difference."

The Strasburg team had looked for a project in Strasburg, but when one wasn't made available, members were happy to at least stay in the county.

"This place provides so many services that a lot of people can use," Keller said. "It's little projects like this that make a large impact on a community. I'm just happy we could be a part of it."

The Day of Caring took on about 150 community service projects, and set a new record for the number of volunteers with just under 800. The day is also the kickoff event for the 2013 campaign, which has a set a fundraising goal of $1,150,000.

For more information on the United Way Northern Shenandoah Valley, visit www.unitedwaynsv.org.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com

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