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Day of Caring volunteers make a big difference in community during COVID-19 pandemic

WHEELING — While it was smaller than usual in scope, the dozens of volunteers that turned out for the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley’s 29th annual Sandy O’Haver Day of Caring on Wednesday made a big impact for several area agencies.

A small group of Williams Energy employees turned out in front of Youth Services System’s Hazel Atlas building in East Wheeling motivated to volunteer their time to complete a variety of painting and repair tasks for the agency as part of the community event.

While the Day of Caring looked “a little bit different” this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, dozens of area volunteers turned out at different sites around the valley once again to make the event a success, according to Jessica Rine, executive director of the United Way.

“Our Day of Caring looks a little bit different this year because we don’t have as many projects … it’s small but mighty,” Rine explained. “We normally have 400 volunteers. We have 80 this year. So it’s a little bit of a change for us. …

“We knew there would be volunteers that wanted to participate and we knew there were projects that needed done, so we decided to carry on this year and launch our campaign with our traditional Day of Caring.”

There were a total of 14 projects scheduled to be completed around the local area by volunteers as part of the day’s events, with only several of those sites being actual United Way agencies, according to Rine.

“This is a day that we give back to all of our community and all of our nonprofits that do such a good job. So we have people that are at Appalachian Outreach, Easter Seals, Crittenton (Services), places that are not traditional United Way agencies but are community giving. … We support all organizations that need a little TLC,” Rine said.

The United Way representative’s were unable to hold their traditional breakfast at WesBanco Arena this year due to the pandemic, but Rine said they had representatives from each work site “come in and pick up doughnuts and T-shirts” to take back to each site.

“With COVID, we had to make some restrictions — only 10 people per project at each location, which really restricts it because there used to be 50 people on projects,” Rine said. “We wanted it to be safe, but we wanted people to still be able to donate their time.”

Employees representing Williams Energy received a brief overview about YSS facilities and the many services they offer the community from YSS President Tammy Kruse and Special Events Coordinator Terra Crews.

Kruse said while they took all the safety precautions possible — for people to actually take time out of their day to volunteer during a pandemic is something very special.

“We’re completely doing things as safe as we possibly can, people wearing masks, there’s cleaning supplies, and we’re outside and we’re social distancing — but people are actually taking the time to say, ‘I still care and I still want to do something,'” Kruse said.

“So for us as an agency to have United Way and Williams Energy to come in and actually put all of their fears aside and say, ‘We’re still going to do something very positive for our community’ — it’s priceless.”

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