'Deeply appreciative': United Way of Central Massachusetts Day of Caring set for Sept. 16

·3 min read
United Way volunteers at the Regional Environmental Council YouthGROW Farm on Oread Steet in Worcester.
United Way volunteers at the Regional Environmental Council YouthGROW Farm on Oread Steet in Worcester.

WORCESTER — The United Way of Central Massachusetts will hold its 29th annual Day of Caring next month, when the group coordinates with local businesses to provide volunteer efforts to community nonprofits.

The event is slated for Sept. 16.

Throughout 2022, community groups have celebrated the return of in-person annual events in the wake of the pandemic.

United Way is also celebrating — but for slightly different reasons.

“We never stopped,” said Emily McCann, United Way of Central Massachusetts vice president of community engagement and the women’s initiative director.

While the number of volunteers and agency partners dropped significantly in the last two years due to COVID-19 restrictions, the group shifted to outdoor-only projects, with a cap of 25 people on each volunteer group.

In stark contrast this year, United Way is expecting around 750 volunteers to pitch in for more than 50 service projects supporting 25 agency partners, McCann said.

And while McCann said she hesitates to call this a return to normal, “this is close to pre-pandemic numbers,” she said, both from participating agencies and volunteer groups.

This year, the largest volunteer groups are from Hanover Insurance Group, UMass Chan Medical School, Anna Maria College and Saint-Gobain, with two of the larger agency partners being the Worcester Housing Authority and the Worcester Public Library.

While the Housing Authority is a regular partner for the Day of Caring, like most agency partners, it usually submits one or two project requests. This year it submitted 12 maintenance, landscaping and clean-up projects.

September is also National Library Card Sign-Up Month, so the United Way will be coordinating with library staff to go out into the community and encourage Worcester residents to do just that.

“Our work with United Way is longstanding,” said Jason Homer, executive director at the Worcester Public Library.

While not an official agency partner this year, the Regional Environmental Council (REC) of Worcester has also had a long relationship with United Way.

"REC is deeply appreciative of our longstanding partnership with United Way's annual Day of Caring,” said Director of Programs Grace Sliwoski. “It's a great opportunity for us to not only get some much-needed volunteer support but also build new connections with members of our community." Volunteers will participate in supporting the organization’s YouthGROW Farm and community gardens projects on Oread Street.

In addition to outdoor projects like this, the past two years saw United Way take on remote and virtual volunteer opportunities, such as calling residents to help them sign up to vote in the 2020 elections.

The other, which will continue this year, is a school supply drive via an Amazon Wishlist, through which businesses can encourage employees to donate supplies to schools and afterschool programs in need.

While both provided a vital service, McCann said that organizing the virtual projects was more difficult than standard, in-person events.

“It’s so much more impactful in-person,” she said, “you really get a firsthand experience of those organizations that make a huge difference in our community.”

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: United Way of Central Massachusetts Day of Caring set for Sept. 16 in Worcester