United Way of the Ozarks hosts its annual Day of Caring

Jessi HawkinsVolunteer Spotlight

Published: Jun. 22, 2023 at 1:01 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2023 at 6:38 PM CDT

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Volunteers across the Ozarks spent Thursday at nonprofits for the United Way’s Day of Caring.

This is the 31st annual year for the event in Springfield. Day of Caring encourages volunteers to make nonprofit locations safer and more comfortable for the people they serve. More than 1,300 volunteers participated in 130 projects this year, helping 44 local nonprofits.

Outside of Day of Caring, there are plenty of area resources if anyone needs a helping hand. Just call United Way 211 to get connected.

One of the main nonprofit organizations benefiting from this year’s Day of Caring was the Discovery Center, where each year, over 100,000 people go through the doors of the downtown interactive science funhouse or attend one of several classes and camps held on campus.

But on Thursday, the children playing at the center were joined by an army of volunteers from eight businesses and organizations who were busy landscaping, pruning, cleaning, painting, replacing lights, and almost every other honey-do project you could think of.

“We have over 200 volunteers with us today doing over 1,800 hours worth of work in one day,” pointed out Samantha Lucas, Discovery Center’s Office Manager. “We’re a nonprofit, and we have a limited staff, and we prefer as much of our funds as possible to go to programming and education as possible. I’ve seen people today working on things that I’ve never even seen or considered.”

About half of the volunteers at the Discovery Center were from CoxHealth, including Shelby Blevins, who took time to try out the exhibit that produces static electricity and laughed as her hair stuck straight up in the air.

“I love this,” she said of her new hairdo. “It’s ecstatic! And I enjoy volunteering and seeing all the good work that we can do, especially here at the Discovery Center, by helping the kids. I’m glad that CoxHealth ended up here today.”

Oliva Barrett, a volunteer who works for the Springfield Cardinals, spent time outside with the Springbirds staff doing landscaping work before venturing inside for her first-ever look at the Discovery Center exhibits.

She even tried her hand at strapping into a high-wire bicycle that goes across the top of the center’s main room.

“This is so cool,” Barrett said with a smile. “It’s way more than I could have imagined. There’s stuff everywhere! I know I’m a 27-year-old adult, but I want to play with everything!”

Billy Buford, a volunteer from Paddio Home Loans, had not visited the Discovery Center since he was a kid 15 years ago.

“I honestly love it,” he said. “I’m so impressed with all the scientific things going on and the little kids running around with joy on their faces. It’s incredible to me.”

Buford also explained that group volunteer efforts like this help build a tighter-knit family of employees.

“It creates a culture of teamwork and camaraderie that helps us get to know each other a little better so we can be closer at work as well,” he said.

While most of the volunteers were taking on chores they don’t do at work, a group from C&H Reman, a business that remanufactures engines and engine components, got to do something right up their alley by cleaning and refurbishing an exhibit that shows how engines work.

“Our group chose the engines because we feel right at home there,” said Charles Bouse, a volunteer who works for C&H. “That’s what we do at the factory.”

And when Bouse was asked if he planned on checking out the many other exhibits at the center to see what caught his eye?

“I want to play with the engine some more,” he said with a smile.

To each his own. But there’s no doubt the Discovery Center greatly appreciated all the love and care they got from the volunteers.

“Having those volunteers come in and do the things we only wish we could get to is what it’s all about,” Lucas said. “And it’s why we do what we do because we have such an amazing community that supports us. And we want to give back.”

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