United Way of Porter County is famous around the Region for the vast number of organizations and programs they support. Year-round, 8,000 volunteers and over 4,000 donors impact lives across Northwest Indiana. United Way of Porter County and the surrounding community pulled out all the stops, gathering 1,101 volunteers together to help 43 nonprofits complete 79 projects across the Region; the majority of projects took place on Friday, August 10, this year's Day of Caring.
Day of Caring is an annual event for just about every branch of United Way across the country. Volunteers from businesses and other organizations throughout the Region took the day off from work to join United Way of Porter County in helping nonprofits make a difference around the community. Day of Caring is the single largest day of volunteerism in Northwest Indiana, and things kicked off with breakfast provided by Family Express at the William E. Urschel Pavilion in Valparaiso and the Portage Township YMCA.
“This is where we put the pedal to the metal and call on all our volunteers,” said Kim Olesker, President and CEO of United Way of Porter County. “It warms my heart to see these people come out. It’s a big ask for these companies and local businesses to loan their people to us for the day, and seeing them here an excited is an affirmation of what we need done.”
United Way of Porter County always puts a strong emphasis on learning initiatives, child care, and securing financial stability for Region residents. The over $2.3 million raised and vast network of volunteers within the organization has touched the lives of 69,000 people; Day of Caring raised that number even higher. Volunteers assisted several nonprofits, including Lakeshore PAWS, the Portage Township YMCA, Opportunity Enterprises, and the Valpo Parks Department.
“I don’t know how to use power tools that well, and when we’re out here painting, someone’s going to need to show me how to use a brush,” joked James Muhammad, President and CEO of Lakeshore Public Media. “But being out here, I’m getting closer to my community members. I did a little research and it’s been confirmed by institutions like the London School of Economics that volunteering makes people happier. So, I thank the United Way for giving this opportunity to make me happy!”
During the breakfast volunteers enjoyed before setting out to their project sites, an array of speakers representing the community and the spirit of volunteerism offered words of encouragement. Among them was Dr. Larry McAfee, a veteran volunteer and retired owner of McAfee Animal Hospital.
“I was born, raised, and spent my entire life here,” said Dr. McAfee. “To me, it’s all about giving back. That’s what we’re doing today, giving back.
The projects volunteers undertook ranged from walking dogs to painting housing projects. Northwest Indiana is a big place with diverse organizations doing everything they can to improve quality of life for residents, and the United Way of Porter County made a big impression with Day of Caring.
A huge collection of sponsors made this year’s Day of Caring possible and better than ever. Sponsors include: Family Express, Blackly, Tabor, Bozik & Hartman, Chester Inc., CSI, McAfee Animal Hospital, The Times, Lakeshore Public Media, the Grossbauer Group, Meijer, NIPSCO, AM Stabilizers, Vale Park Animal Hospital, Aspen Studio, Bucher Technologies, Christopher Casson Photography, Excel Driving Instruction, Peoples Bank, the Porter County Community Foundation, Porter Starke Services, Porter Regional Hospital, the Portage Township YMCA, Thorgren Tool & Molding Co., Valpo Parks, Hoirzon Bank, and Franciscan Health Michigan City.