United Way hosts annual day of caring

United Way hosts annual day of caring

September 14th, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in News

Michael Bratcher installs new lighting at the Sheila Jennings Westside Community Center Thursday during the United Way's national day of caring.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Wall sanders hummed and saws shrieked as carpenters and painters gave a face-lift Thursday to the Sheila M. Jennings Recreation Center.

"We haven't had this kind of transformation in at least 10 years," said Regina Preston, facility manager with Chattanooga's Parks and Recreation Department. "They've done more than expected."

Improvements at the Sheila Jennings site on the Westside are among 35 projects that 500 volunteers across the region completed Thursday in recognition of the United Way's Annual Day of Caring. United Way officials estimate that volunteers on the various projects donated a total of almost 4,000 hours valued at nearly $87,000.

This year's event ties in with the nationwide 9/11 Day of Remembrance and Service, an event focused on turning tragedy into triumph by honoring the victims of the 9/11 tragedy through voluntarily participation in charitable service, according to officials with United Way.

About 100 more volunteers participated this year than in 2011, said Wayne Collins, United Way's vice president of marketing and communication.

Companies such as Cigna, Regions Bank, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and UPS gave employees a day off so they could participate in the event.

Around Chattanooga, volunteers also weeded a flower bed and cleaned gutters at Bethany Christian School, cleaned the warehouse at the Chattanooga Food Bank and painted safety stripes on poles at Orange Grove Center's recycling center.

At the Sheila Jennings site, the plan was to paint the gym and improve the lighting, but Ace Hardware also made wooden benches for the gym. The business raised about $12,000 toward all the volunteer efforts and also hand-picked the professional workers for the project.

The recreation center is the hangout for about 80 people a day during the week, said Preston, but the building hasn't been painted in more than a decade.

Ants and bugs were stuck on the wall, said 10-year-old Rainey Barber, who comes to the center every day after school.

Her younger brother Ryan, 9, complimented the volunteers on their work.

"I thought I was at another gym," he said.

Collins also expressed pride in the event.

"This has been a good day," he said. "A lot of people doing a lot of good. Nobody got killed. It's been a good day."