t was a beautiful day to care Tuesday as 600 volunteers took on community service projects at a variety of sites for Jackson County United Way’s annual Day of Caring.

With a bright blue sky and mild temperatures, workers fanned across the county to complete around 80 projects. Tasks included raking, painting, cleaning, landscaping, installing fire alarms, interacting with senior citizens and improving accessibility of trails.

All of the labor was provided free by employees of local businesses and service groups.

This was the 19th year for the event and proved to be a record-breaker for the number of volunteers involved and the number of projects, said Tonja Couch, executive director of United Way.

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Julie Kloote, a commercial analyst at JCB, was excited about her assignment to help repaint a learning trail on the asphalt playground behind St. Ambrose Catholic Church.

“I love to paint, so this is perfect for me,” she said, dipping her paintbrush into a can of brightly colored paint.

Although this was her first year to participate in Day of Caring here, she was involved in a similar activity when she lived in Johnson County, Kloote said.

“It’s just great to be outside and to give back to the community,” she said. “It really makes you feel good.”

She liked the idea of the learning trail as a fun way for kids at St. Ambrose to play and learn. The trail consists of brightly colored numbers, letters and shapes for kids to identify.

“It just brightens up the whole area,” she said of the splash of color.

Kloote said she tries to volunteer in other ways, but Day of Caring is her favorite way of giving back.

Volunteers also repainted a foursquare court, a hopscotch grid and bases for a ball diamond at the school.

Seymour High School students Baylee Robinson and Faith Rebber said this was their first year to participate in Day of Caring.

“I just wanted to volunteer on my own because I do a lot of volunteering in the community already,” Robinson said. “I like doing this kind of stuff.”

Improving the learning trail and play area was a job the two were glad to help out with.

“I think it’s a good idea because it makes it better,” Robinson said.

Even though they weren’t getting paid for the work they were doing, she said it didn’t matter.

“It means more than that,” she said.

Robinson also said she liked getting to meet new people and the feeling she got from lending a hand where needed.

“It makes you feel better about yourself when you help others out,” she said.

Rebber said she thought the event sounded like fun, and she liked the idea of being outside instead of sitting at a desk at school all day.

It was one of her first times to volunteer in the community, and now she plans to get more involved.

“It’s the right thing to do,” she said.

At Southern Indiana Center for the Arts, Cummins Seymour Engine Plant employees Sam Nichols, Payden Lathrope, James McNeeley and Michael Abbott, completed tasks under the supervision of groundskeeper Don Hill.

Work included laying new sod, improving landscaping around the walkways to the pottery barn and printing museum, hanging barn quilts and fixing areas of the Don Hill Amphitheater in preparation of the upcoming Friday Night Live concert series and erecting fence posts painted by children and art center staff to brighten up an old fence.

“A lot of this just wouldn’t get done if it wasn’t for these guys because I can’t do it all,” Hill said. “They work hard and get a lot done for us. I can’t say enough about what Day of Caring means to us.”

For Nichols and Lathrope, it was their first time to participate in the event.

“Cummins does a lot to help out in the communities they are in, and we want to help contribute to that,” Lathrope said. “It’s one of the foundations of Cummins, and we think it’s really important.”

Nichols said he was impressed by the art center and thought the grounds were rustic and beautiful.

“We wouldn’t have known it was here if it wasn’t for Day of Caring,” he said.

Also helping out at St. Ambrose on Tuesday were Jennifer Rorick and Richard Bicknell of JCB. The two spread mulch in landscaped areas around the church.

The bank has been involved in Day of Caring for many years and rotates which employees get to participate so that more people have the opportunity to give back.

“We’re all about the community,” she said. “Community involvement is one of our big things we push.”

Some of the projects Rorick said she has helped out with over the years were painting a recreation room, socializing with clients at Developmental Service Inc. and making improvements at Head Start and getting to see the students there.

Bicknell said JCB never has a lack of volunteers for Day of Caring.

“Everyone wants to do it,” he said.

Pull Quote

“It’s just great to be outside and to give back to the community. It really makes you feel good.”

Julie Kloote, ofJackson County Bank, on participating in Jackson County United Way’s Day of Caring

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at or 812-523-7069.