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Day of Caring focuses on gift of time; United Way volunteers muster at project sites throughout Central Mass.

Byline: Lisa D. Welsh

WORCESTER - Sixty-three-year-old Clement Dufresne's United Way donation was deducted from his paycheck every week before he retired from his job with the city of Worcester.

"It was something that you just did," Mr. Dufresne said. "It was worth it. They do a tremendous job."

Now, as a regular visitor to the Worcester Senior Center, the former United Way donor is on the receiving end of some of the agency's services, including regular meals provided by Elder Services of Worcester Area.

As part of the United Way of Central Massachusetts' 14th annual Day of Caring, Mr. Dufresne and more than 100 other seniors were treated yesterday to a Harvest Brunch of quiche, home fries and sausage patties. The meal was set up, served and cleared by volunteers including state Rep. James J. O'Day, D-West Boylston, City Councilor Gary Rosen, and employees of National Grid. Elsewhere, more than 100 teams from area businesses, colleges and labor unions participated in 66 service projects, according to United Way, in Worcester, Millbury, Sutton, Grafton, Spencer, Leicester, West Boylston and Oakham in this year's Day of Caring.

For many years, some volunteers participating in the Day of Caring would wash vans, landscape and conduct other maintenance work at the Senior Center, but last year the Harvest Brunch concept was such a success, it was repeated this year.

"Meals at the sites are served cafeteria-style, but during Day of Caring, the visitors get to sit and be served and that makes it a little more special for them," said Jody Wood, senior area manager of Elder Services of Worcester's nutrition program. Through financial support from several sources, including the United Way of Central Massachusetts, Elder Services of Worcester served 101,127 meals last year in 18 congregate settings such as the Senior Center, and its Meals on Wheels program delivered 338,616 meals to elders in Worcester and surrounding towns.

Joanne Cranston of Worcester was participating in her seventh year as a Day of Caring volunteer as she joined 13 of her colleagues from Harleysville Worcester Insurance Co. Their assignment was to harvest, wash and package vegetables at Brigham Hill Community Farm in North Grafton. In the past, Mrs. Cranston has painted at Great Brook Valley and Lakeside Apartments, two properties of the Worcester Housing Authority.

"The best year for me was landscaping at Girls Inc. because my daughter attended some of the programs there, and so it felt like you were really giving to your own," Mrs. Cranston said.

"I like to give of my time," she said. "I want to donate, but not necessarily give money. I get a lot of pleasure from volunteering."

Kerri Sandberg, director of the Community Services Program at United Way of Central Massachusetts, said that's what Day of Caring is all about.

"Community service is about giving, not just financially, but of time," said Ms. Sandberg. "Day of Caring gives the nonprofits a real opportunity to show what they do and also demonstrate to volunteers how they can help them achieve that."

In Worcester, Day of Caring has become a fall ritual, but that isn't the case elsewhere.

"People in other parts of the country participate in Compassion Days, but this is one of - if not the best - in the country as far as the highest volume of effort and making the highest impact," said Tim Garvin, CEO and president, United Way of Central Massachusetts.

"I used to be a volunteer in a small suburb east of here called Boston, and we never saw anything like this with business leaders, politicians, students, employees and employers wearing T-shirts and working side by side," Mr. Garvin said.

Day of Caring is also the unofficial kickoff to the United Way's annual gift-giving campaign. This year's goal is $6.7 million, an increase of $300,000 over last year.

"If we are successful, that still won't be enough. We would like to raise $7 million in 2009 and I would love to get to that goal this year," said Dennis L. Irish, campaign chairman, city councilor and vice president for Government and Community Relations at St. Vincent Hospital, at a volunteer luncheon served in St. Vincent Hospital's atrium between the morning and afternoon Day of Caring shifts.

"This year's campaign slogan is `Lives Will Change,' and lives have changed because of you people here today," Mr. Irish told the volunteers.

2007 Day of Caring Participants

AAA Southern New England, Abbott Bioresearch Center, Anna Maria College, Bank of America, Bay State Savings Bank, Becker College, Bowditch & Dewey LLP, Charter Communications, City Hall/Gary Rosen and staff, Clark University, Clark University All Star Baseball Team, College of the Holy Cross, Colleges of Worcester Consortium, Commerce Bank & Trust, Commonwealth National Bank, Davis Publications, DCU Center, Fallon Clinic, Fallon Community Health Plan, Flagship Bank, Harleysville Worcester Insurance Co., Harr Ford, LR McCoy, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Masterman's, Mayor Konstantina Lukes and staff, MCU - Millbury Federal Credit Union, Millbrook Distribution Services, Mirick O'Connell, National Grid, Notre Dame Health Care, Poly Trade Inc., Providence and Worcester Railroad Co., Rep. James J. O'Day and staff, Saint Gobain, St. Vincent Hospital, Sovereign Bank, Target Stores Worcester and Millbury, The Feingold Companies, The Hanover Insurance Group, The Hope Group Corp., UMass Memorial Health Care, Unum, UPS, USWA 2285 and 2936, IBEW 96, MNA/2, Verizon, Waste Management, WCAC Cityworks AmeriCorps, Webster Five Cents Savings Bank, Worcester Rotary, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Worcester Youth Build Partnership, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

2007 Project Locations

AIDS Project Worcester Inc., American Red Cross of Central Massachusetts, Bell Hill Bridge and School, Catholic Charities Youville House, Chandler Magnet School, Community Harvest Project, Community Healthlink, EcoTarium, Ed's Place SMOC, Elder Services of Worcester Area, Elm Park Center for Early Childhood Education, Emanuel Village, Family Health Center of Worcester, Family Services of Central Massachusetts, Friendly House, Elm Street Shelter, Francis Perkins Shelter, Friends of Newton Hill, Girls Inc. of Worcester, Greater Worcester Land Trust, Green Island Residents Group, Henry Lee Willis Community Center, Junior Achievement of Central Massachusetts, Massachusetts Audubon Society's Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center and Wildlife Sanctuary.

Oak Hill CDC, Parents Helping Parents - The Roundtable of Support, Pernet Family Health Service, Rainbow Child Development Center, Regional Environmental Council, South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Corp., The Community Builders/Plumley Village, Thorndike Elementary School, University Park, Worcester Housing Authority (multiple locations), YMCA of Central Massachusetts, YOU Inc., and YWCA of Central Massachusetts.

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Gina Piermarini of Leominster clears dense brush at Flagg House, a YOU Inc. residential program, in Boylston yesterday. (2) Thomas O'Connell of Holland, a member of the United Steel Workers of America, Local 2936, stretches to reach parts of the wall underneath a basketball backboard as he and other members paint the walls of the gymnasium at Friendly House in Worcester yesterday morning as part of the United Way's Day of Caring. (3) Brian Chabot of Acton, a volunteer from Unum, caught a garter snake while he and other volunteers were clearing dense brush at Flagg House in Boylston.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 19, 2007
Words:1176
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