More than two dozen young professionals took time away from their busy work schedules to give back to the community last week.
More than 300 United Way agencies nationwide participated in United Way Day of Action on June 21. The effort is designed to support United Way member agencies with a boost of volunteer support. The local Day of Action was led by the United Way of Forsyth County’s Young Leaders United, an organization of professionals ranging in age from 18-40 who pledge a minimum of $250 and 24 volunteer hours annually to United Way.
This year, the Gateway YWCA, the Salvation Army Center of Hope and Youth Opportunities, a nonprofit agency that serves children and adolescents who are experiencing emotional and behavioral challenges, welcomed Day of Action volunteers.
“We’re part of a greater network (of agencies) today all across the nation,” said the United Way’s Heather Bolt. “I’m really pleased with our volunteer turnout for three different agencies.”
Volunteers organized a resource library for clients and staff and painted outdoor picnic tables in colorful hues at Youth Opportunities.
“We’re wanting to create a happy space outside for our staff as well as our kids,” explained Youth Opportunities Development Director Crystal Simmons. “It’s pretty much the first step in making the outside of the building as colorful and fun as the inside is.”
Volunteers Alysha Belton and Joseph Sikorski worked to catalogue and organize materials in Youth Opportunities’ resource library.
Belton, a city native participating in the Day of Action for the first time, said being a part of the day was rewarding for her.
“As a Habitat (for Humanity) homeowner, I’ve benefited from a lot of programs that support the community,” commented the mother of two. “United Way does so much for our community that I wanted to do my part and give back.”
For Sikorski, a Long Island, N.Y. native, participating in the Day of Action was another way to settle into the place he has called home for the past three and a half years.
“Though I haven’t been here for very long, it’s still has been a part of me and a part of my life,” the B/E Aerospace employee said of Winston-Salem. “It feels good to give back to an area that has given so much to me.”
Day of Action, which this year focused on issues surrounding education, income and health and bolstering community partnerships and networks, presented a valuable opportunity for Youth Opportunities to share its message with a new audience, Simmons said.
“The United Way has so many connections within the community that when someone comes here and they learn about our agency, then they’re able to go back and tell others … it starts a ripple effect.”
Volunteers sorted nonperishable food donations and packed giveaway boxes for Salvation Army clients at the Center of Hope.
“The challenge with donations is not only getting them, but also sorting them as well,” said John Gladman, assistant director of Social Services for the Center. “Without groups like the United Way, we wouldn’t be able to do that. Without our community partners, our impact would be minimal, so the assistance of the United Way plays an integral role for the organization.”
Wake Forest University alumnus Tim Burchette said he chose to volunteer at the Salvation Army because he wanted to help an agency that meets some of the community’s most basic needs.
“I just think that foods security is so important,” commented the BB&T employee. “The church I go to (Winston-Salem First), they routinely cite Winston-Salem as being one of the hungriest places in America, especially for children. That especially made me more aware.”
Volunteers also lent their support to a summer camp program at the Gateway, where volunteers assisted camp staffers with field day activities and games during the Day of Action.