United Way of Northwest Louisiana held its first Day of Caring in Minden Saturday and has already begun planning for next year’s event and future volunteer opportunities.
“Anytime you have a pilot event, it’s a bit nerve-wracking,” Jeri Bloxom, United Way’s director of Operations for Webster, Bienville and Claiborne parishes, said. “But it really came together because of the people in our community.”
Bloxom says Day of Caring is an annual event hosted by many United Ways across the country.
“I’ve been asked if we will have this volunteer event more than once a year by businesses and non-profits,” she said. “While Day of Caring is definitely going to be held again next year, United Way is available year round to partner businesses, volunteers, and non-profits together for meaningful experiences.”
Day of Caring kicked-off with a breakfast donated by Bon Temp’s Fleur Deli and speakers from area non-profits.
“The exchange of information during the breakfast led to people not only learning more about the services offered in our area and the United Way center in Minden, but also spurred
conversations about future volunteer projects and partnerships.”
Bloxom says one volunteer shared a personal story with her during the event.
“During the day I went around to all the different project sites and talked with volunteers,” she said. “One story really stuck out and is a great example of how Day of Caring is used to build relationships and encourage us to get plugged in to our community.”
Bloxom said the volunteer explained she became pregnant at age 16. A Minden resident at the time, the volunteer received services from the Pregnancy Aid Center, which is still serving clients today in the United Way center at 202 Miller St.
“She told me how important the counseling and assistance she received from the Pregnancy Aid Center meant to her and the success of her young family,” Bloxom said. “Her daughter is now grown and has started her own family.
“During the breakfast she learned the Pregnancy Aid Center is still assisting women and families, and she said she feels led to work with the non-profit and help others the way she was helped,” Bloxom continued.
“Stories like this volunteer’s and the comments from the participating non-profit agencies let
me know that Day of Caring in Minden had a tremendous impact.”
More than 40 volunteers spent their Saturday morning with United Way and nine non-profit agencies.
“After breakfast each volunteer spent two hours at their project site,” Bloxom said. “That is 80 hours of work- two full work weeks- given to non-profits that provide services and keep our community strong.”
Non-profit agencies that participated in Day of Caring include Cultural Crossroads, United Christian Assistance Program, Joe LeBlanc Food Pantry, Volunteers of America, Goodwill Industries, Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana, Pregnancy Aid Center and Sadie’s Arms.
Businesses that participated include ConocoPhillips, AmeriHealth, Minden Press-Herald, Minden Medical Center, Mondi, Northwest Louisiana Technical College, and Regions.
Bloxom said two area businesses, Bon Temp’s Fleur Deli and Minden Embroidery, were a tremendous
help in the event’s success.
“This being a pilot year, we did not have event sponsorship secured,” she said. “But these two businesses understood the service United Way was bringing and made sure we had breakfast and t-shirts for our volunteers- not expecting any publicity.
“They helped because that’s the kind of people they are,” Bloxom continued. “We are really fortunate to be in a community that is composed of people and business of that caliber. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who participated. It is because of you this event was a success.”
For more information about United Way, volunteerism, or non-profit agencies contact Jeri Bloxom at firstname.lastname@example.org or 318-677-2504 ext 140.