Day of Caring allows county to breathe better

Annual United Way event shows how deep the need is

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery – More than 300 shots

RICHMOND COUNTY — Terry Gaar said the work being done by Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills Thursday morning in Dobbins Heights was not a handout.

It was, said the operations manager for the nonprofit, a hand up. Gaar said homeowner Michael David is a partner is the project through Richmond County United Way‘s Day of Caring. David put in not only sweat equity as more than a dozen volunteers helped replace windows and doors on the single-story brick home at 108 Perry Ave., but he also has to pay for the cost of materials.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Wayne Osborne, of Perdue, helps construct a storage shed at Sandhills Children's Center in Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Wayne Osborne, of Perdue, helps construct a storage shed at Sandhills Children’s Center in Rockingham.

And David, 60, couldn’t be more proud.

“It’s gonna be beautiful,” said the man who has lived in the home for about two-thirds of his life.

It’s also going to save David money as soon as this winter. With the rotted wooden frames replaced, air won’t be able to get in. While David has a wood stove on which he has relied for heat the past several winters, it’s not good for his asthma.

“I’m not planning on no wood” this winter, David said.

The new doors and windows will make his home “tight and efficient.”

That last word is the perfect one that describes a series of seven volunteer projects across Richmond County. After a breakfast kickoff meeting at Cole Auditorium in Hamlet, some 110 volunteers from more than two dozen area employers deployed to eight sites across Richmond County.

Backpack Pals for Kids. 108 Perry Ave., Dobbins Heights. Richmond County Literacy Center. Ellerbe and Rockingham senior centers. Cordova School. Sandhills Children’s Center. Samaritan Colony along U.S. Route 220 north of Rockingham. Each sites had a unique need, and United Way Executive Director Michelle Parrish was able to recruit enough volunteers to meet those needs for yet another year. Parrish said volunteers’ efforts saved nearly $11,000 for several nonprofits.

The event is the official campaign kickoff for United Way. The goal is $250,000, the same as in 2013. That goal was reached last year and with a bit of luck, Parrish and the United Way board members will again have that amount to distribute to those in need through 17 umbrella agencies.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Frank Liles, of Richmond County Schools, is at the vanguard of a dozen volunteers that helped prepare packaged foods for the Backpack Pals for Richmond County program.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Frank Liles, of Richmond County Schools, is at the vanguard of a dozen volunteers that helped prepare packaged foods for the Backpack Pals for Richmond County program.

On North Bridges Street in Hamlet, Judith Hudson, Roman Chavis and Frank Liles were the early birds and got a head start on preparing a few hundred bags full of food for the Backpack Pals for Richmond County. In a warehouse donated by the McLaurin Center, the stuffed plastic grocery bags with juice boxes, canned goods, granola bars, pudding, raisins, single-serve cereal boxes and crackers.

Before long, the calvary arrived and several more volunteers helped — from Richmond County Schools, Walmart and more. The task was completed in only 40 minutes’ time. Pastor Steve Crews, of Church of God of Prophecy in Hamlet, is founder and volunteer director of the Herculean effort that goes into sending food home to 433 county students each Friday afternoon.

“We have no paid staff,” Crews said. “Bags are packed by volunteers, bags are delivered by volunteers.”

The program began in 2007 with 27 students at then Rohanen Primary School. It has expanded in seven years to include every county elementary school and middle school — as this year, Crews and his army of volunteers have added Rockingham and Ellerbe middle schools to the list.

Students are identified by teachers, nurses or social workers at each site who, Crews said, “show signs of hunger” on a Monday.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Laura Grier, 4-H extension agent for the North Carolina Extension Office in Rockingham, helps with a window and door replacement project at a Perry Avenue home in Dobbins Heights.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Laura Grier, 4-H extension agent for the North Carolina Extension Office in Rockingham, helps with a window and door replacement project at a Perry Avenue home in Dobbins Heights.

“They just call us with a number,” Crews said. “Each school has a system of how they give out the bags to minimize the stigma.”

Efforts are made to reduce any peer pressure. The food is given in plain backpacks, free of logos. He said the stigma can be worse the older the child is.

By 9:40 a.m., the work is done at this site.

Sandhills Children’s Center

The facility along Crow Run, located off Long Drive in Rockingham, is normally bustling with 108 students under the guidance of Melanie Carnes, director of center services. Shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday, the place was a host to designed chaos.

There were multiple projects going on. A crew from Bryant’s Turf and Landscape were finishing an erosion control project that will end storm water running into the gymnasium. Up to 2 inches of water could pool on the gym floor, Don Bryant said. His crew was there to prevent that.

Now, he said, “it could rain 6 inches and no water” will get through.”

The project was not part of the United Way’s Day of Caring but stemmed from a Cole Foundation grant challenge that helped make the children’s playground area safer.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Jackie Jamerson, of FirstHealth, clears weeds from the front of the Richmond County Literacy Council building on East Washington Street in Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Jackie Jamerson, of FirstHealth, clears weeds from the front of the Richmond County Literacy Council building on East Washington Street in Rockingham.

Still, the work fit within the spirit of the day — making Sandhills Children’s Center a better place for students.

On side side of the building, volunteers Robin Hutchinson, Stacy Brewer and Michelle Hollifield, from Belk department store, were working on a beautifying the landscape. In back, a crew of Perdue volunteers, including Evans Shephard, Leslie King and Wayne Osborne, among others, worked to construct a pre-fabricated storage shed.

King said the idea of working together was a common theme in the workplace, easy to transfer to the children’s center.

“Teamwork, yes,” she said. “Sheds,  no.”

Through checks and balances — King noted some volunteers would wing it while others would prefer to read the instructions — the work was completed. It saved Carnes a busy weekend from putting it together. Carnes said United Way has come through each of the past six years in helping the center.

Parrish, she said, told volunteers that “‘if you’re bored on the Day of Caring, go to Sandhills Children’s Center.'”

And yet, Carnes said, “they come back. I’m surprised, but I’m not surprised. They work. I think that says a lot about this day.”

Richmond County Literacy Center

Back in Rockingham, a volunteer crew from FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital and Richmond County Aging Services worked on making the outside of the Richmond County Literacy Council on East Washington Street more aesthetically pleasing.

Jackie Jamerson, Hannah Chambers and Mandy Phifer, all of FirstHealth, joined with Aging Services employees Fay Griggs and Terry Rush. Pull weeds. Rake. Sweep. Spread mulch. It was work. It also was a first for Chambers, who had until Thursday avoided doing any sort of yard work in her life. Both Chambers and Phifer work in the hospital’s gift shop.

“Her mom would never believe it,” Phifer said.

While many needs were met Thursday, the event exposed just how deep the need is. Each of the 17 agencies served by United Way has a need for volunteers, as do many of the business groups out helping on Thursday.

Filed in: Business, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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