Paint brushes, power tools and just plain muscle power were out in force Friday around Thurston County for the United Way’s 23rd annual Day of Caring.
A crew from the Washington Health Insurance Agency was busy throughout the YWCA’s historic house. Casey Meehan, an independent health insurance broker, was replacing rotting pickets on the railing coming up the stairs on the sidewalk.
Agency owner Vernon Bonfield said community service is an important part of the agency. “Our priority is people,” he said, adding, “We take it outside of work and start enjoying and investing in our community.”
Employees were getting paid for their day of service.
Throughout the community, more than 600 volunteers on 52 teams were working on 35 projects, said Jessi Brown, United Way director of communications and events. Projects included painting and landscaping homes for low-income or disabled residents, harvesting for food banks and weeding out invasive plants. The United Way and the Olympia Downtown Association partnered to recruit volunteers for the ODA Downtown Clean up.
At the YWCA, staff and volunteers were busy refurbishing the basement space known as Kathleen’s Clubhouse, where an array of girls’ programs take place. Volunteer Rachel Homchick was organizing a closet, pulling out bins and boxes, sorting the contents, and deciding what to put back on shelves and what to throw out.
“Being organized helps us do our jobs better,” said Cherie Reeves Sperr, the community engagement director.
The house, built in 1907 for local grocer J.F. Kearney, has some age-related challenges, but the YWCA makes use of every nook and corner.
The main floors are meeting and social space, a kitchen (“a kitchen remodel is on our wish list,” Sperr said) and offices.
Up a steep, twisty, narrow set of stairs is the attic, where women used to rent beds. “Can you imagine how hot it is up here in August?” Sperr said.
Now it’s used for storage and organizing space for career clothing women can wear to interviews and new jobs. Women can make an appointment for Kathleen’s Closet, a boutique-like room on the main floor. Staff will select an array of professional outfits in the appropriate size for women to try. Kathleen’s Closet served 50 women in 2014 and 102 so far this year.
“Day of Caring is an unforgettable, hands-on experience providing volunteers an opportunity to actively improve our community while enhancing team-building outside the workplace,” said United Way Executive Director Paul Knox.