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Newtown's Helping Hands-United Way's Day Of Caring Pairs Corporate Volunteers To Newtown Agencies



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Newtown’s Helping Hands—

United Way’s Day Of Caring Pairs Corporate Volunteers To Newtown Agencies

By John Voket

In tough economic times, many local nonprofit and community organizations are facing a double-edged challenge: meet the growing need for services with diminishing resources. At Newtown Youth Services, Inc, that means Executive Director Anthony Tozzi may need to ignore the piles of boxes and furnishings from the agency’s recent move in order to ensure his staff is meeting the everyday needs of clients.

But on the morning of September 9, an organized team of uniformed volunteers from Newtown Savings Bank will converge on the NYS office in Sandy Hook to help unpack, get organized, settle in, and spruce up so visitors from the community will be able to meet with staff in a clean, comfortable environment.

“We’re expecting more than a dozen volunteers from Newtown Savings Bank,” Mr Tozzi told The Bee Monday. “We’ve recently relocated our agency, and our Day of Caring volunteers are looking forward to helping us achieve a new level of organization.”

For the staff at NYS, this means a cluttered storage room that has become a catch-all for boxes yet unpacked will become a neatly organized utility area. Mr Tozzi is hoping there will be enough time for some touch-up painting, carpet cleaning, and even some simple gardening as well.

This may not be in the general job description for NSB tellers or mortgage officers, but it is the rule of the day for staffers participating in United Way’s 2004 Day of Caring. On September 9, hundreds of volunteers will spread out across seven towns in Northern Fairfield County to work on projects for local nonprofit agencies as part of this annual United Way community service activity.

Those volunteers come from local businesses and corporations who support the United Way and encourage community service. According to June Renzulli, president of the United Way of Northern Fairfield County, projects in past years have ranged from landscaping at group homes to picnics for the disabled.

“This is a great opportunity for businesses to become involved in the community, and for area employees to learn firsthand about the needs in our community,” said Ms Renzulli. “This massive effort is a great example of one of our Community Impact areas: Encouraging Community Involvement.” Last year, more than 800 volunteers were involved in projects in the greater Danbury area.

This year marks the region’s tenth annual Day of Caring, and United Way partner agencies in Newtown, as well as the Nunnawauk Meadows senior housing complex, will benefit from the work of volunteer participants representing several area businesses, large and small.

The general standard for calculating the value of donated volunteer time in this region is about $16.25 per hour. With about 800 volunteers donating an average of four hours each on 44 different projects, the 2003 Day of Caring generated more than $53,000 in donated time to dozens of nonprofit partners.

At the Family Counseling Center, this is the fifth year Executive Director Terri Blackmer will partner with Day of Caring volunteers. While the Day of Caring team washes windows, helps reorganize the basement storage area, and plants new flowers, Ms Blackmer’s staff will be able to carry on with their primary responsibilities.

“We can get all this work done without interrupting services,” Ms Blackmer said. “It’s a very efficient way to keep the center looking nice, and we’ve been doing this for years, so our staff looks forward to it.”

Without the Day of Caring volunteers, both Ms Blackmer and Mr Tozzi say they would have to expend extra staff resources or allocate funds to bring in outside help.

“We don’t have the expertise to do some of this work,” Ms Blackmer said. “We would have to go out and hire somebody to do it for us.”

“Having Newtown Savings Bank come in to Newtown Youth Services helps us create a true sense of community,” said Mr Tozzi. “All these little things the volunteers do all over the region may seem insignificant, but they are so important, especially for smaller agencies that don’t have many hands to begin with. These are the chores that have to be relegated to the secondary list of priorities.”

It is those important but often overlooked priorities that make Day of Caring participation so important to Linda Ballerini, a human resources officer at the Newtown-based Taunton Press, who also serves on United Way’s Day of Caring organizing committee. Taunton Press will be splitting its team of 15 volunteers between projects at Nunnawauk Meadows and the Family Counseling Center.

From her perspective, Ms Ballerini sees the benefits for participating agencies, as well as for employee volunteers. “It’s a valuable experience for all of our employees who participate,” she said. “It gives our employees a unique appreciation for the needs out there in our community.”

As her company’s United Way giving campaign chairperson, Ms Ballerini believes the hands-on participation in community activities translates in a greater measure of support in the form of annual gifts through the workplace.

“Once people see what United Way does out in the community, it turns them around,” she said. “By helping them get involved with community agencies, it helps bring a greater sense of confidence that their donations of time or money are really making a difference.”

Nicole Stampp has been working with fellow volunteers at Newtown Savings Bank for five years. She appreciates the way Day of Caring volunteer activities help foster better employee relations.

“We have several staff members returning this year who have participated in past projects,” Ms Stampp said. “But most of our 16 volunteers are brand new, so the Day of Caring is helping our staff members get better acquainted. We are drawing our team from all nine of our Newtown Savings Bank offices.”

For Ms Stampp, one of the most gratifying things about organizing the bank’s Day of Caring team is seeing how staff members go on to accept other volunteer responsibilities once the day is done.

“Our employees become more engaged, the activities strike a spark in with many of them who go on to become very involved in their own communities,” Ms Stampp said. “Through their volunteerism, they know they are making a difference right in their own neighborhood.”

If any business owner in the community would like to see their fellow employees more involved, United Way can help match volunteers with service projects year-round. At Newtown Youth Services, Mr Tozzi is hoping to find volunteers who will provide an ongoing service improving and updating the agency’s Internet website.

“This is something we don’t expect our group to help with on September 9,” Mr Tozzi said. “But we’d like to connect with someone, maybe some younger people from the high school or a local college student, who can update our website with news and images on a weekly or monthly basis.”

For more information on United Way partner agencies and volunteer opportunities, visit www.volunteersolutions.com, and enter the zip code of the community where you would like to volunteer. At press time, there were more than 18 different volunteer opportunities available in Newtown.

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