A Conversation with the UWGP Day of Caring Steering Committee

As part of our 25th anniversary celebrations, we sat down with members of our Day of Caring Steering Committee to talk about their experience planning the event over the years. Committee members have been involved for a range of 8-23 years! Here’s a bit of the conversation:

How did you get involved with the Day of Caring Steering Committee?

Jill: My Branch Manager, Judi Austin, was very involved with the United Way. She mentioned the committee opportunity to me.

Shiloh: Jill got me involved; we both worked at TD.

Angela: I had a friend I worked with who was on the committee—he recruited me.

Erika: I also had a friend—Angela!

Wendi: I think it was you, Karen [Director of Volunteer Engagement]! You came to me because I was involved with the Community Thanksgiving event every year, and I think we just started talking about other UWGP opportunities.

Rodney: I started because I worked for UWGP years ago, and then after I left I stayed involved as a volunteer because I believed in it.

Anita: I got involved through my work at Southern Maine Agency on Aging.

John: When I was still a foreman [for New England Regional Council of Carpenters], I took a training through United Way and met Vinny, [a former United Way Volunteer Engagement staff member]. He got me hooked on Day of Caring, and I never left.

Describe what a Day of Caring Committee member does. How do you help make the event a success?

Jill: The Day of Caring Committee helps to plan and execute the annual event. We help wherever we are needed to make the event a success.

Rodney: The committee is the conduit or liaison between the agencies and the volunteers; we make it happen.

Angela: We conduct site visits or calls to make sure agencies are prepared to host volunteers. I remember that my first visit was at Wolfe’s Neck Farm.

Wendi: We’re responsible for behind the scenes organization and preparation for the event, particularly the kickoff breakfast.

Erika: (laughing) We make sure volunteers are caffeinated!

Shiloh: And pumped up!

What skills have you used? What have you learned?

John: I help assess projects which may need additional carpentry skills and then assemble teams who can make that happen.

Jill: I have learned how to communicate with agencies and developed my event planning skills.

Angela: I am super shy when it comes to talking to new people and getting myself out there in the community, but [being on the committee] has definitely helped me to do that.

Shiloh: Rodney, you use your public speaking skills to emcee the kickoff event.

Wendi: Everyone brings something different to the table. As a collective group, we use our combined skill sets to come together and make the best day possible.

What changes have you noticed over the years? How has Day of Caring grown or improved/changed?

Wendi: I think we have greater buy-in from companies now which helps increase volunteer participation. TD has definitely grown our volunteer alliance. We also use social media now to share pictures and the impact of the event [#GPmyUW].

Rodney: I’ve noticed that the diversity has increased, from the age of volunteers to the types of projects and their locations. While the kickoff used to be huge back in the day [and the projects limited], we now have more projects engaging more volunteers who want to get right to work. Day of Caring’s footprint has really grown and expanded outside of Portland.

What was your most memorable or favorite experience/project?

Erika: One year we painted a U.S. map and Foursquare grid on a school playground. Many of us hadn’t played that before so we got to try that out when we were done. It was like we were kids again!

Anita: One of the great things I learned about was a little secret garden at Longfellow Elementary School. When my child went there, it wasn’t there, but it’s really incredible now, thanks in part to Day of Caring volunteers.

John: We had a great project at the South Portland Food Cupboard, building shelves in the basement of the church. They were so appreciative.

Angela: We went to Camp Ketcha once to help with outdoor projects to get the camp ready. I’ll never forget when one of the heads of grounds keeping was cleaning out this area with us and we found a giant wasps’ nest. She started beating it down with a shovel and took care of it while we [volunteers] were all running away. She was hardcore!

Jill: My favorite project was in 2003 when I volunteered at Volunteers of America’s Bayview Heights, a senior housing complex. The residents were so happy to have us there cleaning the yard, planting, and mulching. Some of them baked us goodies to say thank you, and they were all fighting on whose were the best. Of course, we had to try everything!

Wendi: My most memorable Day of Caring was when I was soaked to the bone from torrential rain but still got a lot done and felt very accomplished at the end of the day! As a committee member, it’s great to drive around to the sites and see that people are there because they want to be. There’s this positive energy throughout the community. It’s really volunteerism at its best.

Can you talk a little bit about the impact of Day of Caring? How has it affected you, your company, colleagues, the agencies hosting projects, the community overall?

Anita: It’s a great opportunity for agencies to receive hands-on help and volunteers to get some instant gratification from their efforts. You’ll be out working in a garden and people will drive by and honk to show their appreciation.

Shiloh: It’s a great opportunity to see results.

John: I agree. It’s great to drive by an agency and say – hey, we did that! Day of Caring is also a great way to reach out to the corporate world and get people involved in volunteering, sometimes for the first time. It gets your hands dirty! Our guys look forward to it every year.

Angela: It’s great to be able to get out in the community as an employee. When you get so wrapped up in your life and think you don’t have any time to volunteer, it’s great to work for a company that enables you to give back.

Wendi: It’s so great to just get out and do something physical and be with people you may or may not know… it’s always an enjoyable process.

Jill: Day of Caring allows agencies to get work done that otherwise would have had to be put off or involve a great expense. Everyone is working to make the community better and becoming aware of the different agencies in Greater Portland.

Has Day of Caring deepened your relationship with United Way? If so, how?

Shiloh: In addition to Day of Caring, I motivate my colleagues to do other group volunteer activities with UWGP, like meal prep and mobile food pantry projects with Wayside Food Programs.

Erika: Same here. Karen is my go-to contact when I want to arrange group volunteering projects for our department.

Jill: I love the United Way and all that it does. I can never do enough to repay the generosity of the help my family has received through its funded partners.

Angela: I like how the people on the committee are like family now. We’ve been together for a long time.