‘United’ front: Hundreds of helpers heed call on Day of Caring

Meredith Egan, Ceejay McLaughlin and Samantha Simigran. PHOTO BY JOSHUA KODIS

More than 800 volunteers arose bright and early to “Live United” at the kickoff to the United Way of Indian River County’s 28th annual Day of Caring, which they said is the largest one-day service event on the Treasure Coast.

“Thank you all for coming out this morning. I know that it’s an early morning, but it’s a beautiful day to be here today,” said Meredith Egan, UWIRC CEO, welcoming everyone to the kickoff breakfast at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex.

“We really appreciate the energy that you’ve got this morning. We are so happy that you came out and what better way to start your Saturday than going out and showing some love for Indian River County,” said Egan.

“So, for over 62 years, our United Way has made an impact in our community and that’s a testament to people like you who partner with us every day, because our community thrives when we all work together,” said Egan. “Thank you for being part of our story; when you join us, unique things happen.”

Noting that students from 20 schools were participating, she invited School Superintendent David Moore to speak about their hard work and dedication.

“This is an absolutely great example as to why it’s so great to live in Indian River County.

Over 800 of us coming together in different places in our community to give back and help grow us as a community. Just an outstanding day,” said Moore.

“My main job here today is to introduce some students who have to be absolutely exhausted,” said Moore, referencing the cheer squad and band members, who marched in a parade two days earlier and performed at two nighttime games, yet still had energy enough to be at the kickoff.

“They’re nonstop. Tonight, they have the homecoming dance, so they’re exhausted. But they’re here to get us fired up,” said Moore.

“Seeing everybody here fills me with a lot of love on this Day of Caring,” said Jeff Petersen, UWIRC board chair, after their rousing performance. “You people have big hearts in our community, and I thank each and every one of you for waking up early on a Saturday, getting out here and helping us kick it off.”

As the official kickoff also to the annual United Way Campaign, he said that after studying the needs of the community, they put the numbers together to come up with a funding goal.

“I’m proud to say that we’re striving to raise $2.7 million for our community. So do me a favor, go back to your employers and ask them to get involved,” said Petersen, noting that two ways businesses can participate is through company payroll deductions, and matching gift programs.

As neighbors helping neighbors, the volunteers spread out across the county immediately after the kickoff. People worked on some 60 community improvement projects at local nonprofits and schools, from painting, weeding and trimming, to organizing and creating greeting cards.

In addition, 250 literacy kits, funded by a PNC Bank Grow Up Great grant, were assembled by First Presbyterian Church members and donated to RCMA, which provides childcare, early education and resources to low-income migrant families.

The kickoff was sponsored by Publix, with breakfast provided by Joe and MaryAnn Conrado and Jeremy Odom, local owners of McDonald’s, beverages from Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice, and water from Gould Cooksey Fennell.

The nonprofit United Way strives to provide lasting solutions to build a stronger community and offers funding to local nonprofits that assist individuals and families in the areas of health, education and financial stability.

For more information, visit UnitedWayIRC.org. To learn about year-round volunteer opportunities, visit VolunteerIndianRiverCounty.org.

Photos by Joshua Kodis

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