Volunteers 'pay it forward' on Day of Caring

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AUBURN — More than 250 volunteers armed with paintbrushes, rollers and tools of all kinds fanned out through the Twin Cities and surrounding towns Friday morning.

They were tackling about three dozen Day of Caring projects following United Way of Androscoggin County’s 16th annual campaign kickoff breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn. The volunteer work on United Way’s Day of Caring is the largest single event in the community dedicated to doing good deeds each year.

About 300 kickoff breakfast attendees cheered the announcement of a $1.4 million fundraising goal for the 2017 United Way campaign.

Nichole Lajoie of Champoux Insurance, this year’s campaign chairwoman, and Bill Tracy, president and CEO of Auburn Savings Bank, the campaign’s vice chairman, emphasized that all contributions “stay local.”

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Tracy told the volunteers, “We want you to be the ones to mobilize change in our community.”

Lajoie reminded the attendees that “each person in this room is serving as an ambassador of United Way,” and their efforts to increase giving means “we would be able to invest so much more in preventing issues before they become problems.”

Joleen Bedard, United Way of Androscoggin’s executive director, said, “This Day of Caring is all about helping our friends and neighbors and making life a bit simpler.” She added that it’s a day when people “will learn how much United Way impacts so many people across our community.”

Several participating companies fielded volunteer teams of a dozen or more employees, but TD Bank led the participant count with 138.

That bank also was instrumental in providing bright red T-shirts for the volunteers. The shirts turned the Hilton Garden Inn conference center into a sea of red as seats filled up for the breakfast.

Lettering on the back of the shirts said, “We are the hand raisers, the game changers, so start hopping, start doing” and ended with, “United we win.”

Tina Brooks and Jim Labbe, both from TD Bank, shared some thoughts on why they volunteer year after year for the Day of Caring.

“It’s not just about today,” Brooks said. There are many ways to volunteer throughout the community and throughout the year, she told the audience. She and Labbe said they value the opportunity to “pay it forward” through advocacy, sharing and promotion.

The Day of Caring projects ranged from fix-up and painting to yardwork for seniors. Some volunteers assisted with processing food for local pantries. Other projects involved helping elderly people with home repairs or gardening. Among local agencies receiving Day of Caring assistance were the Lewiston YWCA and Sandcastle preschool services in Lewiston.

Terri Cook, chairwoman of the United Way Androscoggin board of directors, told the volunteers that United Way of Androscoggin has been serving local people for 85 years. A backpack program benefited 900 students this past year. That was a record number, she said.

Cook also thanked donors to the United Way diaper drive. As attendees at the breakfast arrived, a stack of packaged diapers rose to a height of several feet.

Betsy Sawyer-Manter, CEO of SeniorsPlus of Lewiston, a partner agency, described some services that receive United Way support, including the Meals-on-Wheels program. She said the 61,175 meals delivered this year to 454 older citizens provide important social contact as well as nutrition.

“Go forward today and make some memories,” was the final directive of the speakers in their send-off to the volunteers as they headed for the various project locations.

Holly Lasagna of Healthy Androscoggin and Stuart Brown of Raise-Op clean up a corner lot in Lewiston that was recently purchased by the Raise-Op housing co-operative as part of the Day of Caring organized by the United Way of Androscoggin County. Raise-Op plans to have a garden, a walkway, benches and garbage cans.

Julie Summers of the Isaacson Raymond law offices, tapes around the trim of a classroom at Sandcastle Clinical and Educational Services in Lewiston in preparation for painting by her co-workers as part of the United Way Day of Caring.

Brenda Wakem and Kelly Archambault, employees of TD bank, refinish benches at the YWCA of Central Maine in Lewiston as part of the Day of Caring organized by the United Way of Androscoggin County.

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