The gift of time.

That’s what volunteers offered Tuesday during the 10th annual Day of Caring sponsored by the United Way of Daviess County.

Because time is what many non-profit organizations and other agencies don’t ever have quite enough of.

So for the Daviess County Historical Society, volunteer workers from the hospital and the city’s housing association will hopefully get the group back on schedule with the packing necessary to move treasured artifacts from the old Jefferson School to Main Street’s Masonic Temple, the museum’s new location.

“Last year we had more volunteers on the one Day of Caring than throughout the rest of the year,” said Dean Dorrell, president of the historical association, who hopes to complete the move within the next couple of months. “We’ve had four to eight volunteers all day, and more are coming from Washington Catholic next week.”

WC students couldn’t participate Tuesday because they had to take the ISTEP exam, the state’s standardized test. But they want to help, Dorrell said, so they will put their time in a week after the actual Day of Caring that officially kicks off the United Way’s annual fund-raising campaign.

“I especially like to have high school kids working here because they get interested and excited,” Dorrell said. “Because they’ll be going through boxes, and you’ll hear one of them say, ‘Oh, wow, look at this.’”

That makes it all worthwhile for Dorrell and the others who have watched as the old museum building bred mold and mildew, both dangerous and damaging around fragile and aging books, photos and clothes.

So he’s grateful for all the help he can get as he and other historical society members pack up the county’s past and try to get it moved before it spoils.

But then that’s what the day is all about — helping others with chores they struggle to find time to do. Like washing inside and outside walls at the city’s animal shelter, or putting together a gazebo and washing the bus at Washington’s Head Start. Other volunteers — some of them city workers with city equipment — bulldozed a building site for the next Habitat for Humanity house on Hefron Street, while still others sorted and hung up clothes at Job’s Closet, providing clothing for families referred by other agencies.

Senior and Family Services also sent several of the day’s 215 volunteers to clean at clients’ homes or turn mattresses for seniors, said Sharon Bybee, executive director of the facility’s extensive programs. Others helped the Retired Senior Volunteer Program make fleece lap robes, and still others washed and waxed vans for Red Door Industries.

“I think I met my match this morning,” said volunteer John Graham with a wide grin. The president of Home Building Savings Bank said his list Tuesday just kept getting longer and longer. So with his lunch came a shoulder massage, donated by one of three local massage therapists who did their part by loosening up the volunteers for after-lunch chores.

Though the needs nationwide have grown, especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s raging winds and water, organizers don’t think donations will suffer compared to last year’s, when the United Way topped their $205,000 goal by $26,000, collecting a total of $231,000.

“I don’t think that will affect that pool of dollars at all because the 18 different agencies we support are all local,” said Tom Tucker, chairman of this year’s campaign. “So the people in the community are aware of what they do, and people in the community want to help because they know how important it is to these local agencies.”

Agencies like the Daviess County Family YMCA, Friends for Kids, Senior and Family Services, the Power House and Four Rivers Resource Services all depend on United Way monies collected through the fund-raising efforts throughout the community during the annual United Way campaign.

The Daviess County Community Foundation funds the Day of Caring, and breakfast and lunch are provided for volunteers by a number of local restaurants. A national United Way program, the Day of Caring started in this county 10 years ago and has done nothing but grow, said Pete Parsons, chairman of the event. There are now enough volunteers each year to help groups and organizations not United Way agencies.

There’s also nothing that speaks community louder than seeing administrators from Daviess Community Hospital pulling weeds at the Head Start building, Tucker observed.

“What’s been done here they don’t have the manpower for,” he said. “And the effects are felt all over the county because Head Start serves families from all over.”

It’s also amazing watching so many people come together to care for each other and help each other, Tucker said. Especially since the only limits to what’s done are set by the organizations and agencies they’ve come to help.

“We’re only as good as what the agencies give us to do,” said Jeannie Burks, executive director of United Way of Daviess County, who helps Parsons and other coordinators match agencies with volunteers.

“We want to get started earlier with them next year so they can plan all year and save up chores for this day.”

Because most non-profits, and even some city offices like the animal shelter, just don’t have enough hours in the day to paint walls, wash windows and assemble gazebos so the Head Start kids can go outside come rain or shine, the Day of Caring does make a difference, according to Kerry Kroeger, site manager for Head Start, representing just one of the day’s nearly 40 projects performed by volunteers from 43 local companies, and six individual volunteers.

“They go above and beyond,” she said, explaining that she’d had the gazebo for two weeks with no time to assemble it.

“They finished the list we had for them early, and they’re asking for more to do. They do the things we can’t normally do because it does take time we don’t have, and they can do those things we’d just like to get caught up on.”

Editor’s Note: Magen Nail, a junior at North Daviess High School and an aspiring journalist, contributed to this article.

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