Gift That Keeps On Giving
United Way Hosts Charitable Work Day
By JESSICA WETZLER
Daily News-Record 9/26/19
HARRISONBURG — For the last four years, the United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County’s Day of Caring has been completing projects the Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham couldn’t.
The Arc, located at the Lucy Simms Center, is a place where those with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the opportunity to learn new skills and socialize. With day- support programs located at the Arc, along with in- home care and respite care employees provide, tasks such as staining picnic tables and painting offices gets pushed aside.
Until the annual Day of Caring, which was Wednesday this year.
Volunteers from MillerCoors spent Wednesday at the Arc checking off items from the organization’s to-do list.
“Volunteers are getting things done we couldn’t possibly do,” said Heather Denman, executive director of the Arc.
Denman said the organization had one of the larger groups of volunteers to help out during the Day of Caring.
“It is fun for a company to send a large team out for stuff like this,” Denman said. “It sends a powerful message to the community.”
Some of the projects completed Wednesday included detailing vehicles, landscaping, painting a new schedule board with chalkboard paint, cleaning and organizing the day-support program room, installing shelves in storage areas, setting up new computers and scanning old documents.
While the Day of Caring is all about helping others, Denman enjoyed how the event brought the community together.
“It is important to connect with the community so we can share our mission and help those get involved outside of Day of Caring,” Denman said.
The Arc was one of 37 project sites included in the event, with a record-breaking 647 volunteers — 55 being seniors at Harrisonburg High School.
“The 55 students here are paving the way for other students to participate in the future,” said Michael Richards, superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools. “Today is a great day to give back to the community.”
Volunteers started their morning at Harrisonburg High School to hear from the event’s first ever keynote speaker, Jermaine Jones.
Jones is the founder of the New Jersey nonprofit Brothers Making a Difference, where he strives to change “just one life,” according to the organization’s website. Jones has also given a Ted X Talk where he relies on his personal journey to deliver motivational and leadership messages.
Wednesday morning’s speech touched on how Jones battled mental illnesses and unemployment by being the best version of himself.
“Your setbacks can become a setup for your comeback, but it will require you to do something,” Jones said. “Your character is built when no one is watching.”
Jones applied for a position at Amtrak 25 times before being offered a job as a baggage man. He kept his attitude positive and made note of every time someone told him to stop doing something because he was either too vocal or doing his job too well.
“When you change your way of thinking, you will eventually change your way of life,” Jones said.
That change led him to being promoted to conductor, then assistant station manager and then station manager at Penn Station in New York City.
He later founded Brothers Making a Difference, which provides a safe outlet for youth to express themselves through educational and fun activities.
“Stop focusing on how many likes you get and start with how many lives you can touch,” Jones said. “Change can’t happen alone.”