LIMA — People began streaming out of Veterans Memorial Civic Center in downtown Lima on Friday morning, inspired and eager to help the community.
The United Way called its annual event its “Day of Caring,” but to Justin Walter, it was a day of inspiration.
“They inspired the rest of us,” said Walter, a Lima resident who was out with other employees from Trisco Systems, one of the sponsors for the day. They headed to the American Red Cross to help install smoke detectors in low-income homes. “After hearing what they said inside, you really realize how needed the work today is. … Just imagine how much we can do with 300 people today.”
More than 300 volunteers representing 29 different companies headed to 24 different sites Friday, said Brenda Burgy, one of the three co-chairs for the United Way’s campaign along with Jeff Fitzgerald and Ann Miles.
“These volunteers from companies will assist these non-profits with projects they just don’t have the resources to do otherwise,” Burgy said.
The organization celebrates its 100th anniversary in Lima this year and wanted to make even more of an impact than in the past two years. A 100th anniversary celebration is slated for Oct. 27 at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Lima’s Cable Road.
Organizers set a goal of raising $1.65 million for United Way member agencies, which the organization helps fund.
Miles reminded the crowd of the good work done by United Way member agencies. She recalled growing up in Lima and benefiting from some of those agencies.
“The United Way is not just giving a hand out; it gives a hand up to individuals in our community,” said Miles, a former city councilor and school board member.
Krista Starr was one of those people who got a hand up. She told her story of getting out of an abusive home and checking into Crossroads Crisis Center with teeth literally knocked out of her jaw in July 2013. Services of United Way agencies, who she nicknamed “Team Krista,” helped her rebuild her confidence and her life, including dental work and educational opportunities.
“They supported me. They encouraged me to become the person they knew I could be, even when I didn’t see it myself,” said Starr, who became a community healthcare worker and now is working on becoming a social worker.
Some of Friday’s volunteers headed out to Faurot Park to work on a skate park and a nature trail. Others helped with a special abilities picnic at Camp Robin Rogers. Many picked up paint brushes to freshen up spaces at nonprofits such as the Boy Scouts or United Way of Greater Lima. Still others spent the day outside, pulling weeds and doing landscaping at places such as ARC of Allen County or United Way. Two crews worked out of the West Ohio Food Bank, handing out produce or packing senior boxes and backpacks.
The day opened with a song-filled breakfast. Students from Lima Senior, Shawnee and Spencerville joined their voices to provide music that set the tone for the day. They belted out the lyric from Bruno Mars’ “Count on Me”: “You can count on me because I can count on you.”
Even their wardrobe — a rainbow of red, blue, yellow and gray shirts emblazoned with the words peace, unity, love and hope — reminded the volunteers of the value of their task.
“You hear that we’re all too busy nowadays,” Walter said. “There’s no one here today who wasn’t too busy to take a day away from work and help. It’s great to see.”