Jackson County United Way needs community projects for its annual Day of Caring event next month.

Local nonprofit groups have until Friday to submit proposals for work they need done but might not have the resources or time to do on their own.

As of last week, more than 400 volunteers from local businesses had signed up to participate in the 19th annual Day of Caring set for May 12, but only 17 projects have been approved, said Tonja Couch, director of United Way.

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“With the deadline Friday, we know we will get a lot of them turned in this week,” she said. “But we are always in need of projects.”

Agencies and organizations seeking assistance through Day of Caring must have proof of insurance and are asked to provide lunch for their assigned workers.

Couch said, with many more volunteers available than job sites, it’s important to have enough work to keep people busy throughout the day.

“We want our volunteers to be able to have a day of meaningful service,” she said. “It’s a great way for them to get their hands dirty for a day and connect with the community.”

Last year, more than 450 people came together and completed 72 projects at a variety of locations, such as Hoosier Christian Village in Brownstown, Katie’s Playground at Crothersville Elementary School, Red Sky Rescue in Medora and Starve Hollow State Recreation Area in Vallonia.

“I think it makes a huge impact,” Couch said. “It’s a great way for people to get engaged and see firsthand how much our community has to give. We have such great nonprofits here in Jackson County doing so much and bringing value to our community. Day of Caring is an awesome way to say thanks and to give back.”

Sally Waldkoetter, a member of the Joe Jackson Hotel Restoration committee, said that, without Day of Caring, the hotel project wouldn’t be where it is today.

This year, a team of volunteers from Duke Energy will return to the hotel in Vallonia to complete the electrical wiring of the building, which they began last year.

“Oh my word, how it has helped,” Waldkoetter said of Day of Caring. “I really can’t even put it into words. They have been absolutely wonderful.”

Trying to raise money for any project is difficult, she added.

“So whatever help we get is a real blessing,” she said. “Last year we had three groups from the Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus and Duke Energy. They worked so hard all day.”

Waldkoetter said it’s difficult to estimate the value of the volunteer work, but it’s likely saved the restoration committee thousands of dollars.

“What a load it lifts off of us and puts us further to our goal to have the hotel open for people to use,” she said.

Day of Caring will kick off at Girls Inc. in Seymour, where some volunteers will stay to wash windows and do general landscaping and cleanup.

Although Day of Caring always provides volunteer labor to United Way’s partner agencies, it is available to any nonprofit or 501(c)(3) organization in the county.

Some of the project sites this year are Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce, Jackson County Visitor Center, Seymour Fire Department and the county park in Brownstown.

Couch said she hopes to have at least as many projects and volunteers as last year.

Cummins Seymour Engine Plant is once again shutting down for Day of Caring so employees can spend the day volunteering. Other companies participating include Wal-Mart Distribution, Kremers Urban and Aisin.

United Way also is accepting financial donations for Day of Caring to help purchase materials when needed, T-shirts for volunteers and signs to indicate work sites.

“The more funding we have, the more projects we can help get completed,” Couch said.

Project sites are asked to provide all the materials they can for the work needed, but Couch said some organizations just don’t have the means. In those cases, the Day of Caring board will make decisions on what it can support.

This year’s Day of Caring co-leaders are Karen Brooks and Justin Amos.

If you go

What: Jackson County United Way’s 19th annual Day of Caring

Where: Project sites will be spread throughout the county, and a kickoff will take place at Girls Inc. in Seymour.

When: May 12

Deadline to submit projects for Day of Caring is Friday.

Requests can be emailed to bonita@jacsy.org or dropped off at the United Way office at 113 N. Chestnut St., Suite 301, Seymour, and should include details of the project including how many volunteers are needed and what materials will be provided.

For information, to make a donation to Day of Caring or to volunteer, contact Bonita Dobbs, United Way program manager at 812-522-5450 or at bonita@jacsy.org.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.