SJ-R Column-Day of action unites people, agencies, community

As originally published in the The State Journal Register.

As Springfield’s largest annual volunteer event, Day of Action is a time when our community gathers hundreds of volunteers at dozens of projects to make one big statement saying “We Care.” It is a celebration of volunteerism and advocacy around our four issue areas: basic needs, education, financial stability and health. It is an invitation for people and organizations in our community to LIVE UNITED and take action to address local issues.

More than 260 volunteers participated in the tenth annual United Way of Central Illinois’ Day of Action this past Friday and Saturday. These volunteers rolled up their sleeves and pitched in on more than 28 projects at 18 agencies. Projects included a deep clean of the children’s exhibit at the Illinois State Museum, landscaping at the Boys and Girls Club, sorting produce at the Central Illinois Foodbank and so much more.

Day of Action is a way for community members with goodwill and a few spare hours to find out about what’s really going on at Springfield’s local agencies, and to get acquainted with the work that those agencies do.
New this year is our ReUnited team of volunteers. ReUnited provides opportunities for individuals who are at or near retirement to continue their relationship with United Way while staying connected to our community and each other.

Day of Action’s impact is two fold. First, there is the obvious impact of the work the volunteers do. Lawns get mowed, walls get painted and exhibits are cleaned. That work alone creates thousands and thousands of dollars in economic impact for these agencies.

The other side that often gets overlooked is the benefit of having a community that is more engaged with its nonprofits. Our agencies have said that they were able to foster relationships with the companies and individuals that volunteer. These relationships are something we work hard to provide. We use our resources to not only provide funding to our local programs, but also to connect our community to those agencies. Day of Action is also an effective way for us to show our community that even if we don’t necessarily fund programs at an organization, we care deeply about our entire nonprofit community and still want to help them as much as we can.

Aside from the connection of knowledge, there is just something magical about driving down a road in Springfield and seeing groups of those blue shirts, knowing that each one of them is there because they care about the world around them and are willing to put in the work to make things better.

We are thankful to see an increase each year in the number of volunteers for both our Fall and Spring Day of Actions. There are always more connections to be made, and we continue to be surprised and excited by our caring community. We would like to thank our strong corporate partners, such as Horace Mann and Heartland Credit Union and their hardworking employees who commit their time year after year to Day of Action. We would also like to thank our supportive Day of Action sponsors, SERV Illinois Commission, Springfield Hotel and Lodging Association and Ace Sign Company. We could not do what we do without you.

At United Way, we strive to strengthen our community’s capacity to support our most vulnerable families. United Way is essential because you can give knowing that your dollars are going towards the best programs in the area, the ones that can prove their impact on the community. The deeper you dig into our local United Way and why we do things the way we do, the more intentional strategy and goodwill you find

All of our volunteers help make positive change possible. We are all a part of this community, and together we can make it succeed. It is incredible what we can accomplish when we LIVE UNITED.

Day of Action is just one of the many ways United Way mobilizes the caring power of our community. To learn more about how you can contribute or volunteer, please visit springfieldunitedway.org.

Mitch Baker is the Community Impact Manager at United Way of Central Illinois. Visit www.springfieldunitedway.org to learn more.