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United Way's Day of Caring



Sheriff David Reynolds works at the Caring Place



Workers at the Hilltop Neighborhood Health Center





350 volunteers turn out for United Way’s Day of Caring

By Charles M. Bartholomue / Post-Tribune correspondent

June 19, 2004

VALPARAISO — Porter County United Way’s first Day of Caring took wing and soared Thursday.  Kathy Bonaventura, director of the United Way’s volunteer center, said the day was a pilot project to bring local businesses and civic and religious groups together to help not-for-profit service agencies for the benefit of the community.  Bonaventura said the United Way’s agencies and affiliates provided a list of projects to be done at their facilities that was posted on the organization’s Web site. Businesses and organizations were then invited to gather volunteers and sign up to do one or more of the projects. “We’re going to do this every October now, starting in 2005,” Bonaventura said. Agency president Sharon Kish said it’s an idea she brought with her when she came to Porter County three and a half years ago.  “We thought we were going to get maybe 100 volunteers for 10 or 12 projects. I’m pleased to report we have 350 for more than 30 projects,” said former Valparaiso Mayor David Butterfield, chairman for the day, at a kickoff continental breakfast at Jefferson Middle School. “I don’t think this will be just a one-time connection for businesses,” Butterfield said before heading out to lead a 14-member team to work at Spring Valley Shelter.  Typical of the participants for whom volunteering was another part of the job was Valparaiso High School junior-to-be Kaitlyn Cook, 16, who is a member of the school’s Key Club and the youngest person on the United Way board of directors. “It starts in one area of your life, and you get more and more involved. It’s fun to see how many opportunities there are,” said Cook, who gives her time at school, church and Porter Memorial Hospital.  “We couldn’t have asked for a better day. It’s a great feeling to help,” said Jean Phelps, owner of Express Personnel Service in Valparaiso, snapping her hedge trimmers at an evergreen in the courtyard of Opportunity Enterprises.  Some projects will come later.  “Barile Ford will be teaching our clients how to change tires and oil and care for their cars next week,” said Mary Beth Schultz, director of The Caring Place women’s shelter.  “Gettin’ a little sunshine!” said Porter County Jail worker inmate Charles Henderson of Portage as he and five other prisoner volunteers put flowers from Samuelson’s Nursery in front of Hilltop Neighborhood Health Center.  Next door, six volunteers from Century 21 Alliance Realty painted the walls of Hilltop’s child-care building.  A dozen members of a Hilltop youth group were treated to a day of mini-golf, go-karts and pizza at Zao Island by American Express financial advisers.  “We try to do something in the community at least once a month,” said Tom Calkusic, leader of the four-person team.  ISG, a leading United Way supporter, sent a 20-member team from United Steelworkers Local 6787 that split into two crews to do landscaping, painting and odd jobs for clients of Housing Opportunities at their Portage apartments.  Day of Caring sponsors listed by United Way president Sharon Kish were Centier Bank, First National Bank of Valparaiso, Harley Snyder, Porter Memorial Hospital, The Post-Tribune and Speedway.

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