Businesses send 200 volunteers

Published 3:46 pm Friday, April 24, 2015

DAY OF CARING: Ameristar employees pose for a picture at the Vicksburg Mall Thursday morning before heading to a work site during the United Way of West Central Mississippi's annual Day of Caring. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

DAY OF CARING: Ameristar employees pose for a picture at the Vicksburg Mall Thursday morning before heading to a work site during the United Way of West Central Mississippi’s annual Day of Caring. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Clad in fluorescent green T-shirts bearing the words “Live United” on the front, members of a team of volunteers from DiamondJacks Casino gathered on the sidewalk near the entrance of the Vicksburg Mall waiting for the rest of their team members to appear.

“We’ve been doing this as long as I can remember. At least 10 to 15 years,” said Sandy Gondelock, a casino employee who was part of the team of volunteers preparing to tackle chores at the United Way headquarters on South Street and at Good Shepherd on Cherry Street.

The orders of the day included filing and other duties at United Way and yard work and painting at Good Shepherd.

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“They’ve got a lot of stuff for us to do at Good Shepherd,” DiamondJacks employee Gerald Washington said.

“We’re from all different departments,” Linda Kay Johnson, another employee, said. “This gives us a chance to meet each other and get together to help the community.”

“We enjoy getting out working in the community. We love it,” Johnson’s co-worker Lisa Barnette said. “We enjoy hard work.”

The group from DiamondJacks was among 200 volunteers from 21 businesses who ignored the light rain and cool breeze to meet in the parking lot of the Vicksburg Mall as they prepared to make a difference in the community during the United Way of West Central Mississippi’s annual Day of Caring.

Another group was a team from International Paper Co., which was set to go work at the Salvation Army on Mission 66.

“They’ve got a long list of things for us to do,” said IP employee Sharon Kavanaugh, another longtime participant. “Cutting grass, trimming bushes, filing and painting. We’ve got a lot.”

The Day of Caring is a program where different companies go out and volunteer in teams to assist United Way’s participating agencies or other agencies. The program promotes team building for the volunteers and allows them to bond with the people they help.

Many employees who participate with their respective businesses return year after year to work together on a service project, United Way marketing and community relations director Kristen Meehan said.

“We have 21 businesses serving 23 agencies,” Meehan said. “Some of the businesses are helping multiple agencies. We’ve been doing Day of Caring for about 18 years. A lot companies give their employees the day off to participate, but a lot of people take a personal day to come out and volunteer.”

That work Thursday amounted to $28,000 in assistance to the agencies helped through Day of Caring.

“It’s you who volunteer who are making the real difference in the community,” Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. told the volunteers before they left for their assignments. “You can tell how good a community is by the way it teaches its youth and protect its elderly, and our youth are getting a good education from United Way. Our volunteers today are a true examples of both giving and living united in our community.”

The rain was falling a bit harder as the groups began to disperse — some to their assignments and others for a quick picture with the United Way banner.

One of the teams waiting for a picture was from Anderson-Tully Lumber Company, which was scheduled to work at the Kings Community Center on North Washington Street.

“We’re supposed to be working in the flower beds, but they had a lot of rain yesterday (Wednesday) that we may not be able to do that,” said employee Kamace Priest. “We were supposed to paint and work in the flower bed, but they’re having something in the center, so we can’t paint. They said they’d find us something to do.”

“If we can’t work in the flower beds, we’ll come back on our own time and do it,” co-worker Carrie Callender said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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