Volunteers care by providing it

David Bradley - and Tomeka Sinclair - Staff writers

LUMBERTON — Around 50 volunteers lent a helping hand in more ways than one on Friday during the first day of United Way of Robeson County’s Days of Caring, which will continue today.

They delivered meals, helped fix up a playground at a local school, knitted items to benefit local folks and service members overseas, fed the hungry and homeless, and even provided some haircuts.

The Days of Caring is a two-day event devoted to giving back to the community. On Friday, volunteers split up and dispersed from Lumberton Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, Cadillac to different sites throughout the day.

The car dealership served as a command center for volunteers and was the site for the Drive for Good canned food drive. Once volunteers returned from the sites, a lunch was held to promote fellowship and reward them for their work.

“The Day of Caring is traditionally a day for the community,” said JoAnne Branch, United Way development director.

Sites to where volunteers were dispatched included the Robeson Church and Community Center and Janie C. Hargrave Elementary School. At the school volunteers began revitalizing an outdated playground.

Volunteers at the school included Katie O’Neil and Nikki Hansen, sophomores at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, who said they volunteered so they could give back to their community

“It was fun. They definitely deserve to have nice things,” O’Neil said of working at Hargrave.

They dug up old timbers and removed old swings. Both said they will go return to the school to help finish the project. Digging out the old wood and replacing swing set pieces are the first steps in the rebuilding process, which will take some time.

“We’re excited to see how it turn out,” Hansen said. “It’s important to give back.”

“I love giving back to the community because this is where I was born and raised. I can make this a better place. I love doing this,” Tomeika Munn said as she carried away broken playground pieces.

“The next step will include adding playground cedar chips for landing zones underneath the equipment. It will cost about $4,700. We’re looking for sponsors,” said Latricia Freeman, executive director of the United Way of Robeson County.

Money to rebuild the playground was provided by the BB&T Lighthouse Project and Lumberton Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, Cadillac.

At the Robeson Church and Community Center, hygiene kits, clothing, shoes and other items were given to the homeless. The homeless also could get a haircut.

Lucion Hunt was thankful for the trim.

“I don’t have to spend $20 on a haircut. It’s a blessing. You don’t turn down blessings,” Hunt said.

Hollie Oxendine, of Southeastern Family Violence Center, volunteered at the at the Robeson County Church and Community Center.

“We’re providing kindness for the homeless and their needs,” she said. “It warms my heart to do this.”

At the car dealership, members of a knitting group held their annual Knit In. They made a variety of products, including baby booties, caps for chemo patients and items to be sent to soldiers overseas.

Shea Ann DeJarnette was one of the knitters.

“It’s wonderful to make a difference for those in the community you’ve never met,” she said.

“We’re working to save babies, one day at a time,” Gena Hunt said.

Denise Ward, publisher of The Robesonian, delivered meals for the Meals on Wheels program. The program delivers meals to needy people confined to their homes.

“I was very impressed with the entire setup,” Ward said. “The group was making certain that all temperatures were correct and written down, and food safety was a very big deal. It was an eye-opening experience.”

Cristal Graham, Graphics/Pagination manager at The Robesonian, had a similar reaction to volunteering with Meals on Wheels.

“It was humbling,” she said. “I didn’t know problems like this existed. You can really see the need in the county.”

The program has been in operation more than 30 years, said David Richardson, Lumber River Council of Governments executive director. It is more than just a hot, nutritious meal being delivered.

“It’s also a friendly visit, a wellness check. It’s a way to have a social contact, and to prevent risk of longterm institutionalization,” Richardson said.

Families looking to volunteer will have the opportunity today.

Family Volunteer Day will take place from 8:30 a.m to 2 p.m. at Biggs Park Mall. The goal is to have families take part in service activities around the community while learning about important resources.

Sign-in is 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Participants will volunteer at various sites around the community from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Volunteer opportunities include painting and planting flowers at the Partnership for Children, visiting seniors at Wesley Pines and cleaning up the nature area at the Boys and Girls Club.

Volunteers will return to the mall at noon for a block party that will feature activities such as Partnership for Children’s KidZone, face painting, rescue vehicle tours, health screenings in the Wellness On Wheels bus, and agency tables with games.

Lunch will be served by Kiwanis of Robeson-Lumberton. The event will end with a drawing for tickets to Disney World.

David Bradley

and Tomeka Sinclair

Staff writers

Reach David Bradley at 910 416-5182 or [email protected]

Reach David Bradley at 910 416-5182 or [email protected]