Katherine Burgess, katherine.burgess@commercialappeal.com

For years, volunteers have had one day to landscape, pass out food and paint walls for United Way of the Mid-South’s Day of Caring.

The event has changed this year, transforming into a week-long Days of Caring with more than 100 projects offering spots for about 2,600 volunteers.

“We heard from our agencies and our volunteers that one day wasn’t enough,” said Tish Robertson, who heads Days of Caring for United Way of the Mid-South.

Days of Caring is the community’s largest volunteer service opportunity, according to United Way’s website. They expect more than 1,600 volunteers to work at nonprofits across the Mid-South.

When the event was only a day long, some projects went uncompleted, Robertson said. Some people who wanted to volunteer couldn’t get that particular day off work, but perhaps could have taken another.

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Now, people can pick any day from Sept. 10-15 to volunteer at a variety of organizations. Some projects are specifically child-friendly. Some involve serving a meal to first responders. Others include school beautification or repairing someone’s home.

“If it weren’t for United Way and their Day of Caring program, it would be much more difficult to serve the needs of the population of Memphis that is lacking services,” said Cordell Walker, executive director of Alpha Omega Veterans Services.

Alpha Omega is planning several projects, one for each day of the week at each of their facilities. Their largest facility will have a volunteer-led paint therapy class. Other groups might do yard work or help plant trees.

Days of Caring is also a learning experience for volunteers, said Ephie Johnson, president and CEO of Neighborhood Christian Center. There, volunteers will participate in a mobile food pantry.

“We’re on the front lines doing the work every day. Sometimes people appreciate it from afar but they don’t necessarily get to be a part of it,” Johnson said. “It brings joy to us to see a smile on a volunteer’s face or a light bulb come on where they can understand from a different perspective about what a person in need looks like.”

The Day of Caring is a staple fall event at United Ways across the country, said Dr. Kenneth Robinson, president and CEO of United Way of the Mid-South.

It allows volunteers to learn more about United Way as well as many other nonprofits in the area, he said.

“There will be opportunities for people to really do hands-on engagement at agencies perhaps they’ve never heard of, never seen, agencies doing life-changing, transformational work whose names are not known,” Robinson said.

A list of volunteer opportunities, including details of how many people are needed for each project, is available online. Days of Caring will launch with a kickoff party Sept. 10 at United Way Plaza, 1005 Tillman St., from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Original Article