story by Rhonda Crone, special to The City Wire
FORT SMITH — In a society replete with cause-of-the-month events and celebrations, perhaps none makes more of an impact than April as National Volunteer Month.
The United Way of Fort Smith Area makes the most of the month’s opportunities with its annual Day of Caring, slated for Thursday (April 19). Hundreds of volunteers spread across a multi-county area to get things done in one day that would otherwise cost thousands of dollars and untold manpower for the 34 member agencies served.
Last year’s day-long event drew 900 volunteers for everything from gardening, clean-ups and painting to visiting with the elderly in nursing homes. In addition to completing the necessary projects, the Day of Caring helps the United Way’s member agencies acquire long-term volunteers, said Tom Minton, executive director of the United Way of Fort Smith Area.
“This day benefits everyone,” he said.
The 34 partner agencies span six counties, so volunteer opportunities are plentiful. Organizers try their best to match workers’ skills with the appropriate projects. If someone is good with a shovel, he or she might be assigned to an organization that needs someone to do yard work. A volunteer with a decent singing voice may be sent to entertain the elderly.
For example, Project Compassion is seeking individuals to visit with residents, play games or cards, and engage them in song.
“They really love Karaoke!” said Dee Long, who along with co-worker Mitzy Little, has coordinated the organization’s Day of Caring events for two years now.
The River Valley Regional Food Bank in Fort Smith is seeking 15-30 volunteers to sort, label, box and stack canned goods. The group distributes canned goods and other foodstuffs to more than 190 member organizations, feeding about 30,000 people per month.
Ozark Area Youth Organization (OAYO) in Ozark utilized 185 volunteers during last year’s Day of Caring. This year, the group needs volunteers at four different facilities for general clean-up, yard-work and painting.
Most events begin around 8 a.m. and end by noon or 3 p.m. at the latest.
The United Way’s mission is to improve lives by connecting people with resources, and the Day of Caring helps many non-profit organizations accomplish a great deal in a matter of hours. For a list of volunteer opportunities, go here.