United Way of Utah County: Day of Caring volunteers find connection
This week, we observed one of my favorite days of the year: Day of Caring. Every year, thousands of community members come together to spend the day providing much-needed support to dozens of nonprofits and community organizations in Utah County. It’s always so inspiring to see people from all walks of life and businesses from all sectors of society work side by side to support these organizations that do so much for us every day. This year, Day of Caring was especially meaningful to me since it marked the 30th Day of Caring hosted by United Way of Utah County.
“United Way Day of Caring is an amazing opportunity for nonprofits to see big things happen in a small amount of time,” said Cheryl Adamson, director of RAH (Recreation and Habilitation Services), “and given the difficulties of the last few years, these projects are more meaningful than ever. The projects scheduled for this day are often ones that we would not have the resources to accomplish on our own. However, the greatest part of Day of Caring is seeing the difference that a group of people can make in a short period of time when they band together for a common cause.”
Over the past 30 years, we have seen countless volunteers participate in Days of Caring. They have done everything from painting curbs to renovating buildings to reading with elementary school students. Their service has impacted generations of our friends and neighbors here in Utah County. By giving just one day of their time, these volunteers help strengthen and support our community in ways that have long-lasting impact.
The impact of these volunteers’ service on the recipients has always been clear to see. Playgrounds have been made safer and more enjoyable for our kids. Walls have been repainted and beautified to make visits to counselors or case managers more comfortable. Greenhouses have been built and installed for community members to grow gardens.
All of these examples show how Day of Caring volunteers make a long-term difference for the organizations they serve. But how does participating in Day of Caring impact the volunteers themselves? What motivates them to come back year after year?
It’s become more and more clear over the past few years that one of the most important aspects of Day of Caring for the volunteers is the connection they feel with each other and with the recipients of their service. As they participate in Day of Caring projects, volunteers have the opportunity to work alongside colleagues and get to know them in a different way from the regular workplace interactions. They also have the opportunity to get to know volunteers from other companies and agency staff members from the organizations they are serving.
“United Way Day of Caring is a highly anticipated day for me every year!” said Chris Crippen, director of BYU Center for Service and Learning and a Day of Caring volunteer. “It’s inspiring to see everyone gather at the morning kickoff, having dedicated their time and talent solely for the benefit of others in their community. There’s such a feeling of elation and unity following the service events that encourages further involvement in community service.”
When you are serving alongside someone else, a bond is created that feels different from other types of interaction. By working together for the same goal, and by focusing on helping someone else, you get to know your fellow volunteers in a deeper way than you do during a regular day-to-day interaction. I believe those connections are why we have so many Day of Caring volunteers who come back for five, 10 even 15 Day of Caring events. They understand the value of those connections.
Adamson also said, “I know the work can be tiring, but in 30 years I have never heard anyone complain, and I am continually amazed by the smiles, positive comments and supportive camaraderie that I see in action. As for me, at the end of the day, I always go away feeling better about humanity and our society because of the goodness that I have been so fortunate to witness.
“It reminds me of my favorite quote by Margaret Mead: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.'”
In a time when so many are struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation, I encourage each of us to follow the example of our amazing Day of Caring volunteers and find a way that we can give back. Whether it’s one day of service a year, a monthly volunteer commitment or even a weekly volunteer appointment, we can each benefit from doing a little more to help each other. The relationships that are formed through serving together strengthen not only the volunteers involved, but our community as a whole.
Next year at our 31st Day of Caring, I look forward to welcoming back our dedicated volunteers from years past and greeting many new volunteers who will be participating for the first time. Together, we can accomplish so much more than any of us can do on our own, and I look forward to seeing the impacts that will come this year, next year and beyond.
For more information about Day of Caring and other volunteer opportunities, please visit unitedwayuc.org.