We believe there is only one way to solve the complex problems facing our community — together.
That’s exactly what happened for our 27th annual Day of Caring. Volunteers from across our community came together to help our community with 75 service projects — saving communities more than $250,000 in services.
Nearly 2,500 volunteers spent more than 10,000 hours completing the day’s service projects, which took place throughout Davis, Salt Lake, and Summit counties. Day of Caring paired employees from 53 local corporations and groups with volunteer opportunities in schools and other nonprofits in these communities to help accomplish projects that would otherwise take them much longer or not happen at all.
“It is always unique because it allows local companies and members of the community to give back and have a hands-on experience helping those who need it most,” said Bill Crim, president and CEO of United Way of Salt Lake.
Here is a glimpse into some of the projects volunteers completed:
Midvale Elementary and Middle School
Nearly 100 volunteers from American Express, CHG Healthcare, and Deseret Management Corporation — all United Way of Salt Lake (UWSL) Year of Action sponsors — spent their mornings at Midvale Elementary and Midvale Middle School.
The schools had several projects for companies, including cleaning up the grounds around both schools, sprucing up the community garden, working with students on reading in English and Spanish, and packing up about 90 emergency kits for the two schools.
Geralynn Barney, the community school facilitator for Midvale Middle, said it’s wonderful to have people come every year and help with so many different kinds of projects.
“We have so many volunteers come together to do something in a few hours when it would take our staff months to complete because there may not be a lot of extra time to do it,” she said.
All three companies have worked with UWSL for a number of years to get connected to volunteer opportunities and support our work. Marina King, the corporate events planner at CHG Healthcare, said making a difference in the community a big part of CHG’s mission and they encourage employees to give back.
Cottonwood High School
The sponsor company focused its efforts on landscaping, cleaning, painting, and other beautification projects the school needed extra help with. They cleaned up landscaping across the perimeter of the school and the heavily tracked courtyard, as well as mulched several areas as well.
Some Savage employees took a break from the physical projects to spend their lunch break with students during a Lunch and Learn, where kids could ask them questions about their careers and life after high school.
“I was thrown into this great culture Savage has of giving back to the community,” Kari De Groot, marketing and communication specialist at Savage, said. “When you’re in high school you don’t know where you want to go or do in life… so it’s important for kids to understand what options are and at Savage we have a little bit of everything in our company.”
Mill Creek Elementary
But Intermountain employees went a step further by hosting a book drive to help fill the library with even more books for the school’s nearly 400 students as well.
As a standard, elementary school libraries should have roughly 10,000 books. Sarah Waddoups, the school’s literacy coach, said the library has roughly 7,700 books. Intermountain’s book drive helped them inch a bit closer to their 10,000 book goal through buying the school new books and donating gently used ones.
Waddoups also helped explained to volunteers why leveling the library makes a big difference in getting kids reading on grade level. “Leveling” is when the books are labeled based on a child’s reading skills, taking into account factors such as word complexity, comprehension level, sentence structure.
When kids can find a book that is perfect for them, they can build their skills up no matter their level. It also helps kids and teachers find books that can challenge them so they can improve.
“It is fantastic to have people here and we are grateful that they can help us specifically in this way,” Waddoups said of the Day of Caring volunteers. “Even though they weren’t working directly with kids (at the project), they are directly impacting their learning and will help them a lot.”
West Kearns Elementary
While many Day of Caring volunteers took on roles that were different from their day jobs, Joanna St Clair of JCPenney brought a bit of her accounting work into her volunteer project at West Kearns Elementary.
St Clair joined her JCPenney colleagues to create laminated books for literacy kits. The project required an almost assembly-line structure of people making copies, laminating, cutting out sheets, and folding.
For St Clair, her job was sorting the books by title and grade level and she decided to make the process of tracking how many books they created easier by building out an Excel spreadsheet. After putting the folded booklets into baskets, she made a note in her spreadsheet what she just completed — DeLayna Wilhemsen, West Kearns Elementary’s community school director, was shocked and grateful when she realized this part of the project was done for her.
Volunteering has been a big part of St Clair’s life. She taught English in South Korea and said she understands how much it means to teachers, students, and school administrators when people come in and take these kinds of projects off their plate.
“All this work took us a whole day, there is no way that teachers would have gotten this much done in that time with everything else they do for their students,” she said. “I don’t think people understand how much they get from volunteering and giving their time to help their communities and kids.”
Leave your own mark on our community. Find a volunteer opportunity by visiting uw.org/volunteer.
By Kelly Schmidt, Content Manager at United Way of Salt Lake