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Week of Caring volunteers 'did it with joy'

Sue Guinn Legg • Jun 23, 2018 at 12:14 AM

United Way’s impact depends on contributions by thousands of Tri-Cities residents.

But digging trenches and placing pavers, painting, cleaning up and serving lunches go a long way, too.

Tri-Cities service agencies and the local United Way offices and partner companies that support them had a great week with the 27th United Way Week of Caring, sponsored annually by Bank of Tennessee.

The week drew to a close Friday with a large team Week of Caring team from General Shale Brick tackling a large landscaping project at Coalition for Kids.

Karen Lauderdale, community impact coordinator for the the United Way of Washington County, said General Shale has participated in every Week of Caring since the community-wide volunteer deployment was launched 27 years ago.

“They like to spread it around and go to different places in the community to help,” she said. “And they go above and beyond wherever they are.”

Cindy Young, director of community outreach for Coalition for Kids, confirmed as much Friday morning at the coalition.

“They got here at 8:15 and they worked until (just before noon). They landscaped more than 75 plants with topsoil, mulch and brick pavers. They paid for everything. They dug trenches. They got down and bent the plastic liners that go in the trenches to keep the bricks straight. Backbreaking labor in this heat. No break. And they did it with joy, laughing and talking and having fun with an attitude that infected everyone,” Young said.

And when she took them on a tour of the Coalition’s Kid City classrooms and told them “this is where the magic happens” for the children who take part in the program, Young said a young woman on the General Shale team had tears in her eyes as she thanked the Coalition for serving the children.

The Week of Caring kicked off on Monday with a breakfast for the United Ways of Bristol, Kingsport, Carter, Hawkins and Washington counties and the community service agencies the local United Ways support.

Hosted by the United Way of Washington County at the Bank of Tennessee Operations Center in Kingsport, the breakfast launched the deployment of dozens of volunteers teams who spread out across the Tri-Cities for some 200 hands-on work projects to improve facilities and provide direct services at many of the service organizations they support with their United Way campaign donations.

A community tradition since 1992, the participating companies say the Week of Caring projects give the volunteers a better understanding of the needs in their community, a greater sense of company pride and a renewed willingness to support the service agencies through the annual United Way campaigns.

As Week of Caring sponsor, Bank of Tennessee took the lead in the service projects, investing 85 employee volunteer hours in service projects in each of the four participating counties.

The Bank of Tennessee volunteers put their backs into a season-opening cleanup for the Frontier Health Adventure Program’s Greenwood Challenge ropes course; they painted and gave a good spring cleanup to Abuse Alternatives; they played games and did crafts with clients at Adult Day Services; and they packed 230 boxed lunches for Meals on Wheels.

In Johnson City, a Week of Caring Team from The Mall at Johnson City served the Johnson City Salvation Army’s Senior Program participants a special lunch on Wednesday, and the staff of the United Way of Washington County office served lunch to folks in need at Salvation Army Center of Hope kitchen.

On Thursday, two teams of volunteers from Blackburn, Childers & Steagall completed myriad cleanup and landscaping projects for the Salvation Army. And a team from Eastman devoted its day to needed project at Girls Inc. of Johnson City.

Lauderdale said this year’s Week of Caring also included a few projects for community service organizations that do not receive annual United Way support.

With funds from a Tennessee Volunteer grant awarded to United Way of Washington County to assist with Week of Caring projects, vocational technical students at Science Hill High School got in on this year’s Week of Caring in May, building and installing tables for the Johnson City Schools Foundation’s STEAM  —Science Technology Engineering, Arts and Math — Bus.

Lauderdale said other projects funded by the grant included a community garden in Carter County and projects coordinated by United Way of Hawkins County, which was a first-time Week of Caring participant this year.‚Äč

United Way of Washington County President and CEO Kristan Ginnings thanked Bank of Tennessee for its double service as the regional Week of Caring sponsor and as a dedicated United Way campaign partner. In both roles, Ginnings said, Bank of Tennessee is helping the United Way’s work to improve the health, education and financial stability of everyone in the community.

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