Local News

United Way volunteers show they care

—Kim Cloud vigorously scrubbed the memorial plaque on the Highlands Hammock State Park Catwalk boardwalk until it glistened.

The state park has “well over” 100 of these plaques, which are used to raise funds for park upkeep --and like other things -- need some attention, said Mike Jarvis, president of the Friends of the Highlands Hammock Board of Directors.

Cloud, Laketra Hills and Stacey Roberts, from the Highlands County Tax Collector’s Office, were happy to oblige Wednesday as they moved from plaque to plaque, spraying a biodegradable cleaner, wiping and scrubbing if needed.

At the Fern Garden Boardwalk, nearer the park entrance, a group from CPA firm Wicks, Brown, Williams, & Co. were taking care of another set.

Wednesday, their Sebring office was closed in the morning as staff members from all three area locations pitched in to help -- from sprucing up the plaques to cleaning the park’s recreation center and picking up trash if they had the time.

The group of volunteers at the state park were among more than 350 from more than 25 companies and government offices who helped a variety of non-profit groups as part of United Way’s Day of Caring.

Volunteer teams are matched with United Way partner agencies, and local nonprofit groups help them out, when they otherwise may not have the manpower or funds to be able to do the things themselves.

“Day of Caring volunteers help out assisting clients, painting, landscaping, clerical work and others. This is an opportunity for local residents to make a ‘hands-on’ impact and also view how their United Way contributions are being invested,” the group said.

“It’s a good way to help others that may otherwise not have the funding,” said Arin Morton, who is an accountant with Wicks & Brown.

Cloud, Hills and Roberts, who have participated in their third Day of Caring, agreed.

Over at the YMCA of Highlands County, a group of 10 Highlands County Sheriff’s Office employees were painting the pool deck a cream color.

Without volunteer help, the Y’s aquatics and fitness director Jarrod Fuchs and program director Dave Scheck would have had to paint the deck “little piece by little piece” on their own, with some outside help, negotiating their way with a paint roller as patrons come in and out.

By having a crew of 10, they could close the pool area for the day and just get the job done, Fuchs said.

Volunteers, such as the Day of Caring crews, help the nonprofit group, by “getting things done” and helping the Y keep costs down for its patrons, Fuchs said.

Some of those helping were longtime Day of Care volunteers, such as Becky Tyson, who is also the sheriff’s office’s team captain, and her husband, Sgt. Tyrone Tyson.

Tryone Tyson, who works with the criminal investigations division, tries to help out as much as he can for Day of Caring unless he can’t “escape” a work assignment, he grinned.

His wife has been putting together the team for the last four or five years and likes the chance to help out.

“I love it. I love giving back,” she said.

Others such as Mauriela Wise had been looking to help for a while. Wise is a dispatcher and her work schedule did not allow her to volunteer until this year.

And she didn’t come alone. She brought her husband, Chris, with her.