First there’s a bit of anxiety. Will we find enough meaningful projects for the exponentially increasing number of volunteers? As the Day of Caring has grown, so have the logistical challenges. Fortunately, Shaele and the rest of United Way staff always rise to the occasion. Since I got involved 10 years ago, we have experienced surprisingly few crises, and the post-event surveys reflect a remarkably high level of satisfaction among volunteers and the non-profit agencies that host the projects.
As I drive to the breakfast rally, butterflies set in. I’m an introvert by nature, so I’m out of my comfort zone as I float through the sea of humanity at the rally. Even after 10 years, the media interviews still make me nervous. I hope it’s not too obvious. Nerves give way to goose bumps as I listen to the State Farm Gospel Choir. The soul-stirring music, great food, encouraging speeches, and strong coffee get the crowd pumped up, and then we’re off.
In my role as the event chairman, I visit a lot of the project sites to thank the volunteers and to do a bit of networking with the staff members of the schools and non-profit agencies. Sometimes I get a little choked up when I see the smiles on the faces of the school kids as they bond with a reading buddy or the sparkles in the eyes of the nursing home residents as they dance or play games with their new pals. It’s easy for me to tune into the great vibes at every project, even the ones that involve “mundane” tasks like painting, landscaping or file shredding. But it’s really hard to tell who’s getting the most out of the experience – the clients or the volunteers.
As the day winds to a close, I’m left with several strong feelings. When I think about enormous amount of good that gets done in one day, I’m filled with pride and joy for my community. Then there’s a huge helping of gratitude toward everyone who showed up to lend a hand or made a donation. At some point, there’s a bittersweet moment when I think about how pleased my dad Larry would have been, and I feel a phantom pat on the back. Finally, there’s relief, exhaustion and sweet dreams. It’s always easy to sleep after a day like this.
Posted by Jim Richardson, Day of Caring Chair and son of Larry Richardson.
In 1999, the Day of Caring was renamed the United Way Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring in honor of Larry Richardson, long-time volunteer of the United Way and the community, and past president of the Charlottesville Broadcasting Company.
Registration deadline is quickly approaching on Friday, July 31. Please visit www.dayofcaring.info to register.