My name is Gabriel Terrell Bacon and I’ve been asked to describe how I will apply United Way's Youth Leadership United (YLU) training in my life. I learned so many things that, I’ve condensed them into three categories: leadership, responsibility and service.
Newlink.com defines leadership as: “A process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent.” That’s exactly how YLU displayed leadership.
From our wonderful instructors to the young adults around me, everyone was a leader. If something needed to be done, Annie and Alan (United Way leaders) never had to beg for help. Often, more than one person would offer to help. YLU has given me the leadership experience I need to be effective and efficient in my new role on United Way's Hendricks County Youth As Resources Board.
My next word is responsibility: a duty or obligation to perform or complete a specific task or job. YLU taught me responsibility by giving me tasks to step out of the box, asking me to do things I never thought of or had tried before.
For example, our service project for the Boys and Girls Club gave me the opportunity to show how responsible I could be. With my YLU group, I was responsible for more than 50 children ages 5 to 12. It was our responsibility to make sure the kids were having fun, but also to make sure they were safe. From 8 p.m. Friday until 9 a.m. Saturday, our group supervised those children. If that doesn’t teach you responsibility, I don’t know what will!
My last and final word is service: giving of your time, talent and treasures to help someone in need. YLU taught this in so many ways, from helping with the event at the Boys and Girls Club to the very training itself: allowing adults and young adults to come in and learn how to become an effective leader through service.
I loved the entire program and am so grateful it is putting me on a leadership path. The experience reminds me of Margaret Mead's words: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Thank you!
-- Gabriel Bacon, 2013 graduate of Youth Leadership United, is an incoming junior at Avon High School in Hendricks County. He is now serving on the county's Youth as Resources Board and has a longer term goal of serving on the county's United Way Advisory Board.
Editor's note: Each year, United Way's Youth Leadership United selects and trains 25 high school students from Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Marion and Morgan counties. The training prepares them to understand the nonprofit system and volunteer on nonprofit boards and committees. This LIVE UNITED blogger is a recent graduate from Hendricks County.
Remember getting ready for a new school year? Perhaps your parents took you shopping for new shoes, a couple of outfits, and of course, new school supplies.
Choosing the color of your folders, pencil box and backpack was a big deal. It was important to fit in with what your friends would bring to school.
BackPack Attack in Hancock County makes this experience possible for many children. The project, coordinated by the Hancock office of United Way of Central Indiana, collects and distributes school supplies to each of the public elementary, middle, intermediate, and junior high schools throughout the county.
Beginning in June, publicity about the program begins. The Greenfield Daily Reporter publishes a story and information is sent out to churches and business partners county wide. Some groups do a simple collection, while others pair it with corporate events. It is amazing to see the 40,000-plus supplies that are donated through these efforts.
On the last day of collections, a "Stuff the Bus" event is held at the local Wal-Mart store. Greenfield-Central Community Schools parks a bus at the store. Volunteers hand shoppers a list of requested school supplies, and ask them to purchase anything they might be able to for the cause. Some shoppers walk out with 1-2 items, while others walk out with bags full. What a great opportunity for parents to model and instill a giving attitude in their children.
The next day, volunteers of all ages spend the day at a school sorting and boxing the supplies for distribution. Imagine a gymnasium filled with school supplies. Crayons on one table, pencils boxes on another, backpacks on another …and the list goes on. Almost every item that a student will need for school is in that room, waiting to be boxed and sent to the schools.
The following day, supplies are delivered to 17 county schools within four school corporations. There, the magic continues. Schools are then able to make these supplies available to students from lower-income families at registration time, and throughout the year as replacements are needed or as new students enter the school.
Volunteers make things happen. Individuals can contribute at any step of the program and help make a difference. You can donate supplies, man the bus, or sort and deliver the donated supplies.
I am fortunate to see this program from two different viewpoints. First, as a volunteer, I work with others in our community to make a difference in the education of our children. School supplies are needed to experience school success, and that is what we are giving to our children.
As a school social worker, I am also able to see the smiles on the children's faces, as well as the relief on the faces of their parents, as they choose their school supplies free of charge. Their appreciation is evident. It is rewarding to be part of a program that makes such a difference in the lives of others.
-- Terry Miller
Editor's note: Since 1999, Indy BackPack Attack has collected more than 3.5 million school supplies for children who need them. Check out opportunities to help with school supply drives in Marion and other United Way counties online.
At my company, Fusion Alliance, I lead the Community Involvement Team and participate in United Way’s Bridges to Success initiative. This opportunity helps improve the education and communities in the IPS school district. where we partner with Riverside School #44.
As a Company that Cares, Fusion was looking for a way to provide volunteer opportunities for employees, and United Way introduced us to School #44. In the last three years, our company has:
- provided thousands of dollars of food donations;
- more than 100 working computers;
- 6th grade ‘graduation’ posters;
- medals for the basketball team;
- ear phones for the computer lab;
- engaged employees to volunteer as tutors;
- sponsored field trips;
- volunteered for Career Day and Teacher Appreciation Luncheons;
- provided a treasure chest full of student incentives;
- and read to students.
This partnership allows our employees to participate in a way that means the most to them as individuals. If someone want s hands on experiences, they can volunteer to read or tutor. If they want to participate in gardening, technology, or other community initiatives, or if they would prefer to donate to the food pantry, all commitments are welcome and appreciated.! The principal even came to our last staff meeting and gave a heart-felt thank you directly to us!
By volunteering to be the secretary for the Bridges to Success Council, I have had the opportunity to meet the most amazing and caring people from the Riverside community. Without United Way leading the charge to connect the community to public education, the true needs of this community would go unnoticed and under-served.
Probably most of the populations we work and live with are not affected by the desperate needs facing some communities, so we tend not to see them. By becoming involved with this initiative and making others aware of the needs, more people can use their voices as advocates to make a difference.
Understanding the enormous role that United Way plays in making our communities better, I decided to personally pursue other avenues of involvement beyond our corporate initiatives. I am currently participating in Women United, Leadership United, Agency Evaluations, Corporate Campaign Coordinator and soon will be an active participant for Leadership Ignited. I am also on the board of directors for a United Way agency, Families First.
Thank you United Way, for offering Fusion Alliance, and me personally, the opportunity to LIVE UNITED and become involved to make a difference in our Central Indiana communities!
- Kelly Brown, Fusion Alliance
Editor's note: As a member of United Way's current Leadership United class, Kelly and other participants all created and implemented group service projects This year, the projects focused on United Way's Read, Tutor, Mentor initiative and resulted in the donation of, more than 8,000 age-appropriate books to local schools and community centers!
I LIVE UNITED by advocating to help more kids succeed
By Connie Bond Stuart, Regional President, PNC Bank
United Way's Early Childhood Business Council co-chair
Advocating for the change you want to see may be the lesser known of United Way's Give, Advocate, Volunteer mantra. But it's the one that's top of mind to me these days. So far, I've left my PNC bank office three times to go to the State House and join United Way in championing an investment of great value now before the Indiana legislature: policies that recognize early learning as essential to a child’s educational success and to our whole community’s future.
Here are four reasons why I'm joining United Way of Central Indiana in advocating for high quality early learning opportunities for our children and why I am asking others to join us:
- Strong returns. Extensive research indicates that the return on investments in high-quality early education initiatives are significant and long lasting – impacting our children, our society and the health of our economy for generations. Studies have shown that investing $1 in quality early childhood education can generate up to $16 in returns. That is why, beginning in 2004, PNC Bank committed $350 million over several years in our “Grow Up Great” program. This program helps prepare children from birth to age 5 (with an emphasis on underserved children) for success in school and life. Not only do we provide funding to high quality child care centers, we also encourage our employees to volunteer, up to 40 hrs / yr. paid time off, with the added incentive to earn PNC grants, for those centers, through their volunteer efforts.
- Timing matters. If a child doesn’t have the opportunity to experience high quality early learning, they enter kindergarten significantly behind others, and they have difficulty ever catching up. It's the kind of start that sets a child up for years of remediation. Even worse, some children are currently “warehoused” in poor quality conditions with minimal supervision and no focus on helping them develop their social, emotional and mental skills. These are skills they need their entire life.
- Lack of quality costs more. A child’s brain grows to roughly 85 percent of its full capacity in the first 5 years of life. For a child to be successful in school, graduate, and progress to become a productive member of a skilled workforce (which we need), we must invest early. This will raise lifetime wages (and tax revenues), while reducing the likelihood children will drop out of school, engage in crime, and become a burden to society. The cost of high quality early learning is more than justified.
- It is the right thing to do. Business leaders throughout the state and across our country are focused on closing our nation’s “education deficit,” starting with early childhood education. It works. Timing matters. There is both a big price tag and a societal cost of not acting. But most of all, I am advocating for investments in high quality early learning because it is the right thing to do for our children and for our state.
Ellen K. Annala LIVES UNITED:
My 10 fondest memories from 23 years at United Way
With Ellen's retirement scheduled to begin March 31, we invited her to tell us about the most memorable experiences of her years of leadership at United Way. Don't confuse them for a list of greatest accomplishments. Instead, they are personal high points that came to mind as she enters the final weeks of her tenure, reflecting on more than two decades worth of moments.
1. Moving van cancelled! I was planning to move home to Arizona and asked United Way's then President, Dan MacDonald, to be a reference in my job search. Next thing I knew, Dan and board chair Andre Lacy hired me to implement the 1989 strategic plan to make United Way more accountable and strategic. The thought of making a greater community impact was more enticing to me than the desert!
2. Irsay, Peyton, the Super Bowl and Blue: Jim Irsay joined 1998 campaign chair Maribeth Smith for a winning season and has supported United Way ever since. I was as thrilled this year as I was the first time Jim presented me with a giant check representing $1 for every seat sold – first in the Hoosier Dome and now in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Bringing one of my nieces or nephews with me on the field created a life-long memory for them too.
In 2010, meeting Peyton Manning was one of our grand prize incentives for new and increasing campaign donors. I introduced Peyton to some of our contributors as Indy’s rock star. “No," he said. "You (the donors) are the rock stars!” Then he thanked and shook each person’s hand.
We also had a trip to the Super Bowl as a grand prize giving incentive. All three winners were from wonderfully supportive United Way companies, and didn’t even recall there was an incentive for giving more.
Finally, getting a big hug from Blue at our joint United Way/Colts season kick off was another standout memory for this Colts fan!
3. Kids need quality, the first steps: The day in 2011 when we recognized the first 24 child care ministries who achieved at least Level 1 in Paths to QUALITY is vivid. Ministers, center directors and a few care givers were our honorees. For some of the staff, the learning opportunities they received from us was the first training they ever had. I became emotional as I experienced their pride in transforming their work from basic care giving to care givers who understand their vital role in early learning.
4. A witness to good things for good people: Each year I get to award renewal grants to long-serving staff of human service organizations. With support from Lilly Endowment, we have helped 30-year employees of neighborhood centers, domestic violence shelters, and many others, explore their roots, take a road trip, swim with the dolphins, renew their marriages, escape with their grand children, learn a new skill (photography, music), and many more renewing experiences. It’s one of those “totally happy” ceremonies when good things happen to good people -- people we want to help avoid burnout so they will continue their service to a grateful community.
5. A 'Yikes!' toast: Only three of us (board chair Jerry Bepko, Vice president of resource development Jim Smith and I) knew about the $50 million grant proposal we titled “Yikes” before we submitted it to Lilly Endowment in my first year as president. The day Clay Robbins called me to say it was awarded, I called Jerry. He wanted to celebrate with us, but was already hosting a reception at his home that evening. He invited Jim and me to his home and we hid in his library while he and Jean visited with their guests, occasionally excusing themselves to bring us snacks before joining us for a champagne toast. (The fund uses investment earnings to pay a share of the fundraising and administrative costs of the campaign each year.)
6. An investment 'ah-ha': Even before I was on United Way's payroll, Dan had me coming to meetings to complete the agency facility maintenance and capital study report. Years later, the Agency Capital Fund was launched. Since then, the initial $60 million grant has more than doubled to $127.5 million to support more than 125 agency projects with a dozen more planned. Early in my career, I didn’t see the power of such investments in our urban neighborhoods. But after seeing the improvements first in the Southeast Community Center and then in Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center, I realized the impact that new facilities had on those neighborhoods in dire need. Later, I also came to appreciate the importance of quality physical environments for both employees and clients. Yes, even people in need and those who serve them deserve to be in a decent, quality facility.
7. ‘Sari, sari' night: Thanks to Rupal, Amit, and Ninad Thanawala, I dressed in a sari with all of our other staff and volunteers, celebrating the Oscars with our Emerging Leaders group when the theme was Bollywood. What a great celebration of Indian culture, United Way's education programs, givers under 40, oh yes, and the Oscar winners!
8. Launching First Wednesdays: I had learned what Atlanta did to grow their Tocqueville Society and make it more meaningful, so talked with campaign chair Bud Melton and board chair Katie Betley about trying it. Bud enlisted Tony Smith as the first Tocqueville chair, and we started First Wednesday luncheons with a loyal group of 8-10, mostly board members. We were a small enough group that we had lunch in the bar area of Agio. It took us a couple years to grow into the dining room. Regular attendees included Mickey Maurer (owner of the IBJ) and Barbara Henry (publisher of the Indianapolis Star). Even with a monthly speaker, one of the fun highlights that kept people coming back each month was listening to Mickey and Barbara spar.
9. Launching Emerging Leaders: After years of hearing that many young people didn’t see the value of collective impact or thought United Way (125 years old) was an outdated concept, I was worried about how we could more effectively engage young people. At the Jazz Kitchen we kicked off a new leadership giving society aimed at the under 40 crowd. I told staff I’d be happy if we had 50 attend. We had more than 120 attend, and nearly 80 signed up as members. Lots of the early members were sons, daughters, nieces and nephews of long-term donors. Today the group numbers more than 1,000 and collectively gives $1.7 million, in addition to their volunteer and social gatherings.
10. People: I’ve worked with the best people in Central Indiana -- people, who though armed with few resources, are daily creating miracles for children, seniors and families.
I've worked with donors who care so deeply about their community they want to have the greatest impact possible with their dollars -- some who increase their pledges in our toughest recessionary years because they know others are unable to.
I've worked with volunteers who know that it is more than dollars but also time that is needed to give a child or adult a helping hand to achieve their potential.
I've worked with funding partners who have a history of working together in Central Indiana -- better than any place in the country to make things happen, like the Community Economic Relief Fund that put an extra $11.6 million to work when the recession hit us the hardest.
I've worked with all the unsung heroes who don’t get public attention, but work endless hours to improve and make their neighborhoods safer.
I've worked with board members and leadership who are so committed to our work that they want to assure we are the most strategic, transparent and impactful organization in Central Indiana.
I've worked with United Way's staff who somehow balance family and work while constantly going the second and third mile because they are so committed to our mission of helping people learn more, earn more and lead safe and healthy lives.
All of my board chairs -- Mickey Maurer, Jerry Bepko, Katie Betley, Mike Alley, Maribeth Smith, John Neighbours, David Resnick, Vince Caponi, and Sam Odle -- were tremendous leaders who gave me and United Way sound counsel and many hours because of their love of United Way and their community.
--Ellen K. Annala, President and CEO
At this moment, many of us are looking at the screen of our computer or iPad in the comfort of our home or office. The lights are on, we just finished a meal, and if we listen closely we can hear music playing or heat blowing in the background.
Simple enough, things we take for granted every day. For those in the Richmond Hill area, these are things that disappeared suddenly and without warning in the middle of the night. For many on the East coast these are luxuries that have been gone for weeks.
As we reflect on the holiday season, the volunteers and staff at the American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis are grateful for the support of our local community that allows us to be there when the unexpected happens to care for those in need.
The American Red Cross is a volunteer-led nonprofit organization that depends entirely on donations to make our lifesaving mission possible. Funding provided through United Way of Central Indiana is the cornerstone of our community support. A few ways this support has helped the Red Cross respond to Hurricane Sandy and the recent explosion on the south side include:
- We continuously recruit new volunteers. Experienced volunteers conduct training and mentor newer members. Contributions from United Way help make this training possible so when disaster strikes, trained and caring people are prepared, equipped and ready to help. Whether the disaster is down the street or across the country, Red Cross volunteers from Greater Indianapolis are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
- Payroll contributions of $6 a week (just over $1/daily or about $300 annually) provide 30 people with a day of hot meals in a disaster zone.
- Giving $4 a week (about $200 a year) covers the cost of sheltering four disaster victims for an entire day. This includes providing a safe place to stay, clean blankets, food and emotional support.
- $3 a week (about $130 a year) helps to replace clothing and shoes for one disaster victim.
Health and mental health needs
- Volunteer nurses and mental health professionals are on the ground locally and on the East coast meeting the needs of disaster victims. Your contributions make possible their training and deployment.
These are only a few of the many ways your contributions make a huge impact. The situations in which our clients find themselves are usually not their fault and are beyond comprehension to most of us. When a house catches fire in the middle of the night or a Hurricane makes landfall on the coast, the American Red Cross is there because you are and you care.
Your contribution to United Way of Central Indiana provides shelter to the person who has, in an instant become homeless. It provides warm food to the person with none, and warm and protective clothing to the person who has just seen their life’s work go up in flames or swept out to sea. By extending a helping hand to one we improve the condition of all. Thank you for your support of American Red Cross by giving, advocating and volunteering. LIVE UNITED!
--Rocky Buffum, grants officer, American Red Cross Indianapolis Region
Editor's note: Undesignated gifts to United Way of Central Indiana's annual campaign help ensure that people who experience disaster have the basic needs to recover, through programs and services offered by American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis and The Salvation Army. Since 1958, United Way has invested more than $83.6 million helping people through the Red Cross. That includes grants of more than $2.9 million for capital, maintenance and technology improvements from funds contributed specifically for such needs. The agency’s 2012/2013 Community Fund allocation is $1,141,303.
At CNO Financial Group, we’ve been adopting families from United Christmas Service every year since 1988. We started with four families, but for a very long time now we have adopted 40 each year. Providing holiday cheer for that many can provide logistical challenges. But it does provide even more holiday-spirit filled memories. Here are my top five memories from the last five years. Why not make some of your own memories his year?
5. Heroes in training. Our associates get their families involved every year. I have watched little girls and boys wrapping gifts, hauling toilet paper and paper towels and laughing and smiling the whole time they worked for kids who have less than they do. It warms my heart to see the next generation of volunteers learning about what’s really important.
4. Bedbugs. One year a team captain realized that the family they were working with had a problem with bedbugs. The children had bites all over their bodies. Instead of just being sad about the situation, our team connected the family with free extermination services. This truly changed that family's daily living conditions.
3. True tragedy. Between the time one family became eligible for Christmas Service help and the time they were assigned to our company, our team caption learned one of the sons had died. My associate renewed my Christmas spirit when he told me, "This just means I have to go the extra mile to make the family's holiday the best I can."
2. Family in crisis. One of the families we adopted had been evicted, so they moved in with relatives. When our team contacted the family, he learned they had moved because of a relative's inappropriate behavior. They struggled with finding a living situation that worked. This family still had small children who believed in Santa. Our team delivered the gifts in large bags so they could be hidden until Christmas morning. The family had a rough year, but a great Christmas.
1. A new home. Because of a house fire, last year, one of our families had recently lost everything. They moved to a new apartment, and their church donated furniture, but they had nothing else. Our team supplied dishes, bedding and housewares on top of a robust Christmas. When they delivered the gifts, the children presented each of my colleagues a poster with their photos to thank them. A year later, each of these team members still has their poster hanging by their desk.
I believe I work with angels on earth. If these stories touched your heart, I urge you to put together a program at your company. There is never a shortage of families to adopt, and it takes such a small commitment to make such a big difference.
--Media Oakes, corporate communications, CNO Financial
It seems like my whole life I’ve been volunteering in one capacity or another. In the past I have been in charge of a volunteer ambulance team, volunteered as an auxiliary policeman, and even joined the Civil Air Patrol. Now I'm part of a severe storm watchers and chasers group, on a community emergency response team, and provide emergency communications using a ham radio.
Most of us know we ought to be prepared personally with emergency supplies and plans for getting to safety. But what we may never think about is how a whole community prepares for the aftermath of a disaster. Odder still is the question of how to deal with crises that are apt to attract lots of well-meaning volunteers who spontaneously travel to the site with little to no information about where to go, who to work with, or how to keep from adding to the crisis.
That scenario is why my wife and I were eager to sign up when United Way's Volunteer Center announced it was looking for people to set up and run volunteer reception centers that are designed to put unaffiliated volunteers to work after a disaster.
United Way recently led a practice drill to staff a mock emergency volunteer reception center. We each tried a few different processing stations, and then reviewed how things went and ways to improve the system. Now we’re more prepared to perform our duties if a crisis occurs.
It's a great way to multiply a workforce by turning a few into a force of perhaps hundreds or even thousands. I am grateful United Way set this effort up in our area (as well as others), and am proud to help.
I especially like that I can use both my "emergency responder" skills and still participate in the volunteer center since those are usually activated once the rebuilding process has begun.
Over the years I have participated in numerous practice drills and even helped people in actual emergencies. I've been lucky to save a few lives. I can tell you that the feeling you get as a volunteer helping in these situations is a great reward in itself. It's why I LIVE UNITED by volunteering!
No one wants anything bad to happen, but isn’t it comforting to know that people are preparing and staying prepared should the worst happen?
--Leo Doyle, volunteer emergency responder
Borshoff has a "make it better" attitude in all that we do. We tighten news release language, tweak design elements and refine event details.
We approach our annual United Way campaign the same way.
Being a Company that Cares for all 18 years is a huge honor and accomplishment. It’s proof that we work hard and do our best; that we approach the effort every year with the same enthusiasm as we do our work.
When Holly Havener and I began leading Borshoff's annual campaign six years ago, our average donation per employee was $382. I was blown away. I led the employee campaign for my previous employer and the average was less than $10 an employee, up $3 per person from the year before.
Leading the annual campaign at Borshoff is a privilege, and it's challenging to increase our donations and engage everyone each year.
Fortunately, we’ve been motivated though the years by the personal stories delivered by Torchbearers. We’ve learned about veterans’ affairs, homelessness in Indy and educational issues faced by children. Those stories teach us all to be better citizens, and remind us we all can make an impact.
All benchmarks for the Company that Cares award support our commitment to the community. You don’t have to give a large donation; you can volunteer for Day of Caring instead. Or, if you are maxed out on time, you can give gleefully to one of the United Way of Central Indiana’s member organizations. Regardless of your age or job duties, everyone can contribute something.
Our principals set a solid example for everyone, both through their individual gifts and their corporate gift. They encourage activities during the campaign.
Every year we adapt and experiment with ways to draw in even more colleagues. Several years ago, we began holding a bake sale during the days before Thanksgiving. Those who enjoy baking contribute pies, cobblers, cakes and cookies; and those who dislike baking purchase these homemade items to "pass off as their own" over the holiday. That sale consistently brings in several hundred dollars.
This year is our inaugural chili cook-off fundraiser for United Way. Again, our hope is to promote inclusion and remind employees the campaign is underway. It’s also an excuse to get together and encourage some friendly competition.
We are also linking our annual holiday greetings to our United Way charity of choice. More details are to come, but I see towers of canned goods and toilet paper lining our hallways in the near future.
One of my favorite days of working at Borshoff was the day in 2005 when we almost didn’t reach the Company that Cares metrics. A fellow employee started a "What are we, a company that doesn’t care?" chain of emails, and we reached our goal by the end of the day.
I am proud to work at Borshoff, a Company that Cares about its employees and our community. I’m even prouder to co-lead the annual United Way campaign, and I look forward to achieving our goal and earning our 19th Company that Cares medallion.
--Erin Pipkin, United Way annual campaign co-chair for Borshoff
Being part of United Way's Day of Caring taught me how to LIVE UNITED by volunteering. Now, I NEED to volunteer! I connect that feeling to two projects set up by Community Health Network, where I work.
Last month, I helped create an outdoor learning environment for kids at a day care on the southeast side of town. It was a big project involving more than 200 volunteers. My role was heading up a crew of about 26 people who built a labyrinth. Friday was our build day. At the last minute, we had to change the design when I realized the center would not be big enough for a child using a wheelchair.
The work was very precise. It involved lots of cuts, lots of concentration and collaboration. At one point, I noticed one of our executives was holding 4x4s for me!
On Saturday, volunteers painted the labyrinth red. My wife brought our own two children by to try it out. The idea is that when you get to the center of the path, you leave something of yourself there. And when you walk out, you are whole again.
Watching my children walk along that path made me realize that we gave a day and a half of our time, and left only a few hours of ourselves behind. But when the work was done, we created a memory that will always be there for us and for the children and families who use the path every day. Completing that project made us all whole.
Last year our Day of Caring project was at IPS School 14, a impoverished area that both my wife and I had worked in when we part of Wishard's ambulance crew. I spent seven years responding as "Medic 20" with "Engine 20."
Every day, we were in the homes of people near that school, but we had never thought of doing anything outside of our work to help them. We were basically battle-hardened soldiers dealing with the worst situations imaginable, and we were trained to mask our emotions and be strong.
That changed with Day of Caring. My job was painting a deck around a tree in the school yard. When I heard a little boy call it the "Learning Tree," it became not just a task, but special and important. It was a contribution to the future of the children in that school.
While we were working, a family in the neighborhood stopped by to thank us and offered us some water. These are people who don't have much. It really touched my heart that they wanted to give us something.
Now, I am teaching my children about volunteering. When an associate lost everything to a house fire, my 5-year-old daughter filled a bag full of toys to give to that child. She even gave some of her favorite toys, not just things that she didn't want to play with. "You're volunteering now too," I told her.
We need more projects like Day of Caring. Why do we have to wait another year? Why?
-- Kennon J. Thomas
Editor's note: Kennon has graduated from two United Way leadership programs and co-chairs Community Health Network's United Way annual campaign. Professionally, he is director of network supply chain management for Community.