Hundreds of volunteers help at United Way event

Lori Fountain Bales, an owner of Body Renew Corporate Wellness in Winchester, dumps a load of potatoes from the Volunteer Farm into a bin on Wednesday during the Day of Caring by the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley. There were 150 volunteers from six organizations who volunteered their efforts to pick 9 tons of potatoes and tomatoes. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – As part of the 15th annual Day of Caring by the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley on Wednesday, 865 people in the region came together to assist area nonprofits and kick off the organization’s 2015-2016 campaign year.

After an 8 a.m. kickoff at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Winchester with celebration and announcements, volunteers of all ages spread out to six nonprofits in the area to begin work on their assigned projects.

A team of 13 volunteers began organizing the event in April, coordinating the registered and qualified nonprofits and their projects with the various teams of volunteers.

Volunteers came to the World Foundation for Children Volunteer Farm in Woodstock from teams out of BB&T, Trex, RR Donnelley, Body Renew Fitness, Project HOPE and Blue Ridge Hospice.

Around 150 volunteers from those sponsors gathered more than 11 gaylord boxes of potatoes at the farm, and a few more gathered tomatoes for distribution to needy families in the area.

Betsy Reynolds, of Mount Jackson, an employee of Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, carries a bucket of potatoes she picked at the Volunteer Farm in Woodstock as part of the Northern Shenandoah Valley United Way Day of Caring. Rich Cooley/Daily

Darcus Breneman served at the farm this year as a volunteer from BB&T, but in the past had been volunteer chairperson for the Day of Caring. For the Days of Caring in other years, she had helped with various painting projects and at the American Red Cross food bank.

“What’s really cool today … your hands are actually in the earth, I mean we’re actually moving the dirt,” she said. “We may not see the direct result today, but we know that people are going to have food on their table.”

Breneman said that with the large turnout of volunteers from different companies, working at the farm provides a larger scale opportunity for camaraderie through good old-fashioned hard work in the dirt.

“We’ve just been blessed every single time with a beautiful day, so we just can’t ask for better weather,” she said.

Ernie Carnevale, volunteer and executive director of Blue Ridge Hospice, said the volunteers enjoyed working in the field and felt proud of a good day’s work.

Tina Lahman, an employee of Body Renew Corporate Wellness in Winchester, picks potatoes at the Volunteer Farm in Woodstock during the Northern Shenandoah Valley United Way Day of Caring. Rich Cooley/Daily

“The best part is that it’s going to people who need to eat,” he said.

World Foundation for Children chairman Bob Blair said the United Way volunteers gathered a total of around 9 tons of produce on Wednesday, most of it from one of the farm’s seven potato fields.

“All these people are here to represent what the United Way can get done,” Breneman said.

Elsewhere, volunteers worked on the remaining 129 projects at places like Fremont Street Nursery in Winchester and the Clermont Foundation in Berryville.

As of Wednesday, United Way President and CEO Nadine Pottinga said the organization is at 20 percent of its $1.1 million fundraising goal for the year, which will end in December. That figure will come from a combination of donations and payroll deductions from volunteers.

Glenn Muse, a Trex Company employee from Martinsburg, West Virginia, carries a bucket load of potatoes at the Volunteer Farm in Woodstock as part of the Northern Shenandoah Valley United Way Day of Caring. Rich Cooley/Daily

With 120 more volunteers this year for the landmark event, Pottinga said she’s confident that goal will be met judging by the success of the Day of Caring. The estimated worth of the volunteer labor at all the area nonprofits this year is $117,000.

“We’re absolutely thrilled with this year’s showing of support and we’ve had a really incredible day,” she said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com

Dan Kelly, an accountant for Trex Company, unloads potatoes during the Northern Shenandoah Valley United Way Day of Caring at the Volunteer Farm in Woodstock on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily