Local agency leaders fear festival will have impact
By Katie Demeria
For the first time in several years, the Front Royal-Warren County United Way may have plenty of people to help during their annual Day of Caring, but be short volunteers.
The agency had to postpone the event to this Friday due to the severe thunderstorms that struck the area on its original date last Friday, according to Executive Director Lee Smith-Osina.
"There was a weather forecast that called for possible thunderstorms," Smith-Osina said. "The issue was, given the timing, we'd have people out on the job with power tools."
In order to ensure the safety of the volunteers, Smith-Osina and her team were forced to postpone the day one week -- though Friday conflicts with the Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester.
"As hard as it was to do, we decided to postpone. We know we're going to lose people, we understand that, but we're hoping it won't be too bad," she said.
The agency is now asking for more volunteers to step forward and help work on the 23 homes involved in the Day of Caring.
Smith-Osina said anyone is more than welcome to volunteer, whether or not they have a specialty skill. Those with skills, such as plumbers or painters, though, are still very much needed.
In past years the agency has had difficulty finding enough work for their volunteers. This year, though, they started the Day of Caring plans with four houses that carried over from last year.
"Every year my issue has been getting enough jobs," Smith-Osina said. "What I'm getting today is volunteers saying they can't come and they're really sorry. Most of the time they're pretty solid, and they come back each year and bring someone with them."
Before three years ago, she added, they had 100 volunteers involved. That number has climbed to around 150.
Schools have also become involved, with clubs like the honors society and Girl Scouts participating.
"I've rarely seen anyone sign up for it once and say I never want to do it again," she said. "They just love the day."
The work this year consists of improving homes and a lot of yard work. Volunteers will be planting flowers for a local 91-year-old resident, as well as fixing her porch.
They will also install a wheelchair ramp for another individual in need.
Residents who receive help are usually low-income, disabled, elderly or veterans unable to afford the work on their own. They are 200 percent or less below the federal poverty level for income of a family of that size.
"I think the Day of Caring for this United Way is the single most popular thing we do because it raises everybody's awareness," she said.
"I particularly think it's important because it's a neighborhood project and reminds us of the one-county nature of this small United Way, and its commitment to the community," she continued.
Those interested in volunteering can call the United Way at (540) 635-3636 or email email@example.com.
Smith-Osina said it would be useful to hear who is coming before Friday, but walk-in volunteers are welcome as well. All volunteers will meet between 8 and 8:30 a.m. at the Fantasyland Playground in Front Royal.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org