Live United Day volunteers serve across Northwest Arkansas

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 206 views 

“Giving back” was the theme of the day on Wednesday (April 15) as more than 600 volunteers joined together for Live United Day, sponsored by the United Way of Northwest Arkansas. The volunteers served at United Way partner agencies and other local non-profit organizations in 6 cities across NWA and worked on 35 different projects.

Many area companies, such as Arvest, Synchrony Financial, United Bank and Walmart, encouraged their employees to form teams and volunteer together, serving during workday hours. Other area organizations like Pea Ridge Free Will Baptist Church and the JBU golf team also formed teams and served.

Teams could choose from projects such as playing games with special needs children, planting flowers, organizing a library, picking up donations, clearing brush, preparing gardens for spring planting, and stuffing envelopes for a fund-raiser mail out. Projects lasted four to six hours and required groups ranging in size from five people to 75 people.

Jonathan McArthur, garden coordinator for the Samaritan Community Center, said the volunteers from Walmart Global Audit, who served at the Center, made it much easier for them to to have a community garden.

“I’m the only one working in this program and so without volunteers we wouldn’t be able to have a successful garden this year,” he said. “Instead of me doing it over two weeks, we can do it over three hours. So that’s amazing.”

Rebecca Crossland, development director for Restoration Village, said she enjoyed having teams work because she enjoys sharing the Village’s mission of helping homeless women and children with the community.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to incorporate the community in what we do and give them an idea of what we do out here and who we are as an organization,” she said.

A team from Synchrony Financial, the main sponsor of the event, worked on various clean up projects at Restoration Village.

“We will probably have 18 to 20 people today out of an office of maybe 40,” Brad Link, national sales leader for Synchrony Financial, said. “Everybody that’s available will clear their calendar and will be here today and are excited to be here.”

Link said their team realizes that the work they did today at Restoration Village is important because non-profits have a hard time keeping up with maintenance.

“It’s great for us because it’s an opportunity to get things done that we don’t have time to do when we’re focused on our mission, which is to help women and children in crisis,” Crossland said.

Alexa McGriff, director of marketing and communications for the United Way NWA, said they coordinate the event because it is a good way to connect agencies with people in the community who want to give back. McGriff said this is the fifth year to hold “Live United Day”, but that United Way has coordinated a volunteer effort similar to this in this area for over 15 years.

“We also coordinate it because volunteering is good for the people who do it,” she said.

According to the United Way NWA website, volunteering benefits the volunteer, as well as the nonprofit.  They point to a study done by Mark Snyder, a psychologist and head of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota who says that people who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well being and happiness.

Peter Nkonge, who volunteered at the Samaritan Community Center with his team from Walmart Global Audit department, said he enjoyed giving back to others by helping the non-profit.

“You feel that joy of knowing that you have helped somebody,” he said. “It might not be direct, but it will help somebody. It’s a good feeling.”