KEARNS — Thousands of volunteers along the Wasatch Front donated their time Wednesday to more than 80 projects in schools, community centers and other places in need.
Savage Cos. and Dominion Energy (formerly Questar Gas) teamed up to help out at Kearns High School, joining the more than 70 local companies that sent employees out to volunteer as part of the United Way’s annual Day of Caring.
Most volunteers from Savage went to work outside on the school grounds: weeding the school and community garden, cleaning up the greenhouse used by botany classes, cleaning chairs and repainting the railings of the baseball stadium, and other beautification projects.
“We’ll be here until there’s no more work for us to do,” said Mike Koch, who coordinated the company’s projects with United Way.
Kearns principal Maile Loo said the volunteers’ work was appreciated by all at the school, and will “continue to impact my students and staff every time we walk by the areas of service in a positive way.”
Koch, a benefits manager at Savage, said the team of volunteers finishes their projects early every year at Day of Caring, and they always want more.
“Give us lots of work; we’re gonna get it done fast,” Koch said he tells United Way every year. “Whatever you think we’re gonna get done with our amount of people, double it.”
Savage employees have been involved with United Way of Salt Lake’s charity work for over 10 years. On the Day of Caring 2017, they were sent to South Salt Lake to work on a few houses that needed a lot of maintenance, cleaning, and other jobs done.
“It’s amazing what happens when you descend 120 volunteers on three homes,” Koch said. “We painted, we cut limbs down, we landscaped, we cleaned rain gutters, mulching, gardening, planting.”
There were 120 volunteers from Savage Cos. working at Kearns Wednesday — almost half of the employees from the company’s Midvale headquarters.
Volunteers from both Savage and Dominion also volunteered time inside the school giving career advice to students. They helped them to identify their skills, helped with resumes and offered insight into career opportunities with the companies.
Outside of the Day of Caring, Savage is working with United Way on a program to improve literacy in underprivileged schools and communities.
“Not every kid gets a fair chance,” Koch said.
Koch said it’s important to help kids early who may be disadvantaged, such as students who may be going hungry, learning English, living in poverty or facing any other difficult situation.
“What do you expect from that kid 10 years down the line?” Koch said. “We try to do some early intervention there in conjunction with United Way to really turn that tide.”
Jeff Hymas, Savage communications director, said the company focuses a lot of its volunteering efforts with United Way because of the way it organizes and coordinates volunteers and resources from so many partners in ways that can make the biggest impact.
“Working together with United Way, we’re able to make a bigger difference together than we could working individually,” Hymas said.
Dominion Energy also works with United Way throughout the year, helping to improve schools and communities in need. They have worked together for over 20 years.
“Some of our most memorable experiences have been with United Way,” said Reggie VanWagoner, Dominion communications specialist. “It helps employees recognize how important our communities are to us.”
Dominion volunteers were able to work with students one on one or in small groups to give them personalized attention and help with career planning.
“This is a really important time for them, thinking about their futures,” VanWagoner said. “Or maybe they’re not thinking about their futures, but hopefully they are now.”
United Way spokeswoman Jerilyn Stowe said the organization’s ultimate goal is to help students overcome obstacles and barriers that may keep them at a disadvantage.
“Every child, regardless of their ZIP code, regardless of their race, should be provided the same opportunities to succeed,” Stowe said.
Kearns High School has had the highest graduation growth rate from 2013 to 2018, she said.
Stowe added that no one individual, group or organization can solve these issues alone, but that it takes partnerships, volunteers, donors and community leaders all working together.
“That’s the only way we’ll create lasting social change,” she said.