Annual Day of Caring draws 800 volunteers


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During the United Way Day of Caring on Sept. 19, Carmen Goodwin, left, and Sharity Sommer plant strawberries at the Alaska Botanical Garden. Goodwin is a grants accounting associate and Sommer is a communications associate for the Rasmuson Foundation.

Photo/Courtesy/United Way of Anchorage

United Way of Anchorage gathered more than 800 volunteers for its 19th annual Day of Caring in September, a day devoted to giving Anchorage corporations an avenue to give back to their community, Christine Gire, communications manager for the non-profit, said.

“Day of Caring is the single largest day of corporate volunteerism in Anchorage,” Gire said. “It’s a day when UWA celebrates the commitment of local business volunteers for rolling up their sleeves and taking on much needed community projects.”

Groups from 36 companies and organizations tackled 44 improvement projects throughout the city.

“The work ranged from painting a room for a new resident as well as dust removal at the Pioneer Home to prepping the Alaska Botanical Garden for the winter to taking on some landscaping duties for The Arc of Anchorage,” Gire said.

Independent Sector, a non-profit advocacy organization, provides statistics that put volunteer work into hard numbers. According to studies done by Independent Sector, corporate volunteers, such as those involved with Day of Caring, are worth an average of $21.69 per hour to both their employer and community.

Day of Caring volunteers worked about four hours each, Gire noted. When those numbers are multiplied by the more than 800 volunteers who took part, Day of Caring raised more than $70,000 in volunteer labor in one day for the city of Anchorage.

Not only are these events good for the community and good public relations for the corporate participants, Gire said, but they can foster a sense of value between the two.

“Many companies want their employees to know they aren’t there just to make a profit, but that together they can make a positive impact within their community,” Gire said. “A feeling of connectedness results from community involvement and for many people that starts with the company they work for.”

Immediately after the Day of Caring every year, United Way holds the Day of Caring Food Drive. This year the drive gathered nearly 400,000 pounds of food in one day for the Food Bank of Alaska. Gire said the food bank calculates a meal as 1.3 pounds, meaning the drive contributed an equivalent to more than 300,000 meals.

While the upcoming holidays get people thinking about donating to local food banks, Gire said, the need is year-round, and are another great and easy way for corporations to give back to their communities.

Sam Kirstein at the Fairbanks Community Food Bank said her organization is serving about 15 percent more people this year, a consequence of economic uncertainties and the soaring cost of energy in the Interior. However, donations, both financial and in food, are holding generally steady, she said.

”People are giving smaller amounts of money this year but there are more people giving,” Kirstein said.

Local grocery stores and food-serving institutions donate food to the Food Bank and volunteers there package these into food boxes sufficient to last one person three days, she said. The goal is a 20-pound food box but if donations are down in any one week, the box could be down to 17 pounds. All major food stores and institutions donate including Safeway, Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart and major wholesalers like Food Service of America and vendors that support the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.

The military commissary at Fort Wainwright, she said, has now been cleared to make donations after some paperwork was cleared up.

 

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

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