Volunteers lend hand for Day of Caring

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Volunteer Jack Maegli cuts a board to build grow boxes as Kaylee Ryker lends a steady hand at Caritas Beloit on Wednesday. Hundreds of volunteers helped build, paint and perform other helpful tasks as part of United Way's Day of Caring.

BELOIT — A record-breaking 720 registered volunteers from 37 companies across the Blackhawk Region stepped up to lend a hand to local nonprofit organizations on United Way's Day of Caring Wednesday.

Caritas, CASA Rock County, Head Start, Merrill Community Center and Stateline Family YMCA were the Beloit beneficiaries of volunteers from area companies. All gathered with a simple goal of lending a helping hand to organizations that provide resources to the community.

Donna Ambrose, Executive Director of Caritas, was very appreciative of the volunteers who showed up to build grow boxes for their garden.

"We love this day because we wouldn't have the resources otherwise to get these types of projects done," Ambrose said.

President and CEO of United Way Blackhawk Region Mary Fanning-Penny said that 109 projects were planned to be completed over the course of Wednesday's events, but said she would not be surprised if rain throughout the day brought that number down slightly. Nevertheless, Fanning-Penny said the sheer number of volunteers, which was around 100 more than 2015, was an impressive gathering.

"It is a demonstration of the power of the community, and what we can achieve when we mobilize those resources," Fanning-Penny said.

Fanning-Penny also expressed gratitude for the efforts of volunteer coordinator Beth Gliebe, who went through the painstaking task of assigning volunteers based on skill-set to the various projects around Beloit.

"It is a logistical nightmare to coordinate 720 volunteers, so I am very thankful for her efforts," Fanning-Petty said.

Fanning-Penny credited "Champions" for this year's campaign, Bill and Linda Lock, Barb and Ron Mallon and Jim Agate for spreading the word and "lending high visibility to the campaign" through conversations with other local businesses. Bill Lock and Jim Agate are well known in Beloit as owners of Culver’s, Papa Murphy’s Pizza and The Rock Bar and Grill. Barb and Ron Mallon own Culver’s restaurants in Janesville.

Curt Wam of Head Start said the day-to-day effort involved in running a nonprofit can be significant, and having volunteers help with painting and other projects made a difference.

"It helps a lot," Wam said. "All these little things that we cannot get done during the year."

Volunteers were all smiles at locations throughout Beloit, glad to lend a hand to help the community.

"It is a good opportunity to feel like we are a part of the community and contribute," said Steven Walker, who was helping paint a bathroom at Head Start.

Chris Regenhauer of the Town of Beloit Police Department had Wednesday off, and decided to join the around 50 volunteers working at Merrill Community Center on various projects.

"The Merrill Community Center does so much good for the community, it is the least I could do," Regenhauer said.

The effort and support did not go unnoticed by Regina Dunkin, Executive Director of the Merrill Community Center.

"It has been wonderful to have businesses in our community that care," she said. "That is what it is all about with United Way's Day of Caring."

Dunkin added that the help of volunteers on painting, landscaping and other projects allows nonprofits like Merrill Community Center to focus their resources on positively impacting people in the community.

"We are grateful to United Way Blackhawk Region, and the volunteers that gave their time today," Dunkin said. "Because of their efforts, we are able to have a beautiful and clean place for our participants to come to."

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