This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Caring in the community

UB volunteers give back at annual United Way event

Susan Ertel does some painting at Bristolwood Apartments. Photo: DOUGLAS LEVERE

  • Multimedia

    Watch a video of UB faculty, staff and students at Day of Caring.

Published: August 16, 2012

Their tools varied from paint brushes to rakes, hedge shears and shovels, but they all had one thing in common: a desire to lend a helping hand in their community. More than 100 UB faculty members, staff and students fanned out across the Buffalo area yesterday to volunteer in the 20th annual United Way Day of Caring.

The largest community service event in Western New York, Day of Caring draws thousands of volunteers who spend part or all of their day helping member organizations with projects those agencies might not otherwise have the funds or resources to tackle. Projects included painting, repairing concrete sidewalks, mowing the lawn, washing windows, organizing donations, gardening and landscaping, and even conducting mock interviews for job seekers.

Volunteers gathered at the First Niagara Center yesterday morning for breakfast and marching orders before being bussed to their respective work sites around 8:30 a.m. UB volunteers helped a number of different organizations, including the Belmont House, Fruit Belt Coalition, Compass House, Salvation Army, Every Person Influences Children and Benedict House of WNY.

“Day of Caring is an awesome event. I think it’s a legacy of UB,” said A. Scott Weber, vice provost and dean for undergraduate education, and chair of the 2012 Employees Campaign for the Community.

“The United Way says ‘yes’ to anybody with a need and ‘yes’ to anybody with a challenge,” added Dennis Black, vice president for university life and services, who is heading the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County’s 2012 campaign.

“This is ‘Christmas in August’ for these agencies,” said Black, who twice served as chair of UB’s Campaign for the Community—in 1998 and last year—and also has been part of the United Way’s campaign volunteer team.

“They have projects and work that can be done, and challenges that they don’t have the resources or the manpower to deal with, so the Day of Caring offers a tremendous gift. As we approach the fall United Way campaign, it’s important that we each think about the possibilities we have to support the United Way 365 days a year, as well as how we can be advocates for change and making a difference in our community.”

After a morning of painting, repairs, landscaping, and addressing envelopes, among other tasks, volunteers returned to First Niagara Center for lunch, a volunteer fair and music and games by DJ Johnny K.

A group of nearly two-dozen UB workers began their day at the Bristol Home and nearby Bristolwood senior apartments on Main Street in Buffalo. Susan Ertel was among a group of volunteers sprucing up the apartments by applying a fresh coat of paint to some support posts outside the complex adjacent to the Bristol Home, a striking, powder-blue Victorian mansion that dates back to 1868. The home contains 54 single bedrooms for elderly women.

Ertel, who works in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Development Office, has volunteered at Day of Caring since the event’s inception. “I can’t recall a year I didn’t do it,” said Ertel, who started volunteering at the invitation of the first office she worked in at UB. “They invited me to come along and it was such a great opportunity that I’ve been doing it every year since.”

A block over at Compass House, which provides safe shelter and services to runaway, homeless and at-risk youth, Bernadette O’Donoghue was hard at work cleaning one of the home’s front windows. “I’ve done (Day of Caring) before and I had the opportunity to do it again. It’s a lot of fun,” said O’Donoghue, 52, who will begin the final year of her BS/MS combined degree program in occupational therapy; she also has a bachelor’s degree in psychology. “It’s the satisfaction, of course, in doing the work itself, but also in meeting people. It’s always nice to meet new people.”

One of the largest UB groups was tackling various landscaping and painting projects in a small park at the end of Mulberry Street in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt neighborhood in the shadow of UB’s Downtown Campus. “When we showed up, everything was overgrown and you didn’t know if it was a tree or what it was,” explained Jennifer Pollard, UB’s interim director of financial aid. Working on Mulberry was extra special for Pollard, whose mother grew up on the street. “It’s really exciting to be in her old neighborhood,” Pollard said.

For many UB volunteers, Day of Caring is an experience they won’t soon forget. “The benefits of this go well beyond the things that we’re doing here today,” said Weber. “They’re lasting memories, they’re what our UB community is about—giving back to others. I’m always inspired by it and I feel privileged to be a part of it.”

UB regularly has one of the largest volunteer teams on Day of Caring, according to Amy Myszka, the director of Wellness and Work/Life Balance and coordinator of UB’s Day of Caring effort. In addition UB faculty and staff are generous supporters of the annual campaign, through donor designations.