Students volunteer for inaugural Youth Day of Caring

by The City Wire staff ( 3 views 

More than 200 students rolled up their sleeves to help local non-profits on Saturday (Nov. 10) as part of the area’s first Youth Day of Caring.

Organized by United Way of Fort Smith Area, the event’s goal was to engage area youth and encourage them to give back by volunteering in their community.

High school students from Fort Smith, Ozark and Van Buren, and students from Arkansas Tech University-Ozark and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith worked throughout the morning at United Way agencies helping with various projects. Many painted walls and cleaned up storage areas, while others interacted with clients at local nursing homes.

Groups were assigned to projects at UW agencies, including Abilities Unlimited, Ozark Area Youth Organization (OAYO), Literacy Council of Western Arkansas, Salvation Army and the Boys and Girls Clubs in Alma, Fort Smith and Van Buren. Several teams also assisted Project Compassion by visiting residents at nursing homes in Barling and Fort Smith.

At the Boys and Girls Club of Van Buren, players from the VBHS tennis team worked in the gymnasium painting walls and organizing the concession stand.

“The students really accomplished a lot today,” said Cindy Faldon, BGCVB executive director. “We appreciate these students giving up their Saturday morning and working so hard to help support our club.”

Members of Southside High School’s National Junior Honor Society helped brighten up the Salvation Army’s shelter by putting a new coat of paint on the walls.

“The students were wonderful,” said Salvation Army Captain Carlyle Gargis. “We got a lot done and had a lot of fun doing it.”

More than 50 volunteers tackled projects at the OAYO offices and locations in Ozark. Athletes from Ozark High School, as well as Boy Scouts and other organizations pitched in to help spruce up some of the organization’s older facilities.

Following the projects’ completion, the volunteers gathered at USA Truck in Van Buren for a “Thank you” lunch. Members of the United Way Board of Directors and YDOC planning committee were also in attendance.

“Youth Day of Caring was a tremendous success,” said Dr. Jo Alice Blondin, United Way Board Member and YDOC chair. “The response from the students and sponsors was overwhelming and we are already looking forward to next year’s event.“

For their efforts, participants were recognized with a certificate from United Way and given a 2012 YDOC t-shirt.

Every year, United Way of Fort Smith Area invests more than $2 million dollars into agencies and programs in Crawford, Franklin, LeFlore, Logan, Sebastian, and Sequoyah Counties.