It was sometimes tough to tell who was teaching lessons and who was on the receiving end during Wednesday’s annual Heart of Kentucky United Way Day of Action.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Frances Lackney, who was tutoring Hogsett Elementary School students in reading. “I honestly don’t think a lot of people from our school have done something like this. It’s been great. It’s a good way to be able to get out in the community and know you are helping.”
Stephanie Blevins, United Way chief operating officer, said the more than 200 students from Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties were the largest youth turnout for the event in recent memory. “It’s wonderful to have them involved from such a young age,” Blevins said.
Danville juniors rolled up their sleeves for service projects across Boyle County on Wednesday to benefit United Way and to kick off their project for a new initiative at the school called the “X-Factor.” With each class — from freshmen through seniors — charged with coming up with a project, the juniors chose community service.
In addition to helping the elementary schools in the Danville system, the DHS students also volunteered at the Salvation Army thrift store and community garden, the Danville-Boyle County Senior Citizens Center, Batewood Homes and Latimer Apartments.
First-year DHS Principal Aaron Etherington said the massive service initiative is in keeping with the school’s graduation requirement to perform some kind of service. “It fits really well with the service piece in our Danville diploma,” Etherington said in reference to an increased emphasis on experiences that prepare students for college and careers. “We targeted this day because it was a chance for all of our juniors to be involved in something they could share in together.”
The students in Boyle County High School’s Y Club also were out and about on Wednesday helping to set up the appreciation luncheon for Day of Action volunteers at Millenium Park. The Y Club is a service organization with opportunities for youth government activities, such as mock Congress. The Boyle group saw Day of Action as a way to establish even more of a presence in its hometown.
“We’ve focused more on reaching out and sharing and helping instead of just fundraising this year,” said the group’s president, senior Katie Noelker. “We wanted to go out into the community more, not only to serve, but to grow as a club. When you go out into the community, you get the chance to help others, but you can also bond as a group.”
Lincoln County High School students did projects surrounding downtown Stanford’s revitalization, while Girl Scouts from Mercer County also were at Millennium Park on Wednesday morning.
Students from Garrard County High School will have something to preserve their experience for posterity. The Student Technology Leadership Program students were documenting the service projects going on in their county and will make videos from what they captured.
“The student participation was a huge success,” Blevins said. “I had so many comments from people about how hard they worked and what a difference they made. I also talked to a lot of the students, who said they had such a great experience that they want to continue volunteering.”
There was no official number for how many people fanned out across the area during the event, but Blevins said there were more than 700 registered volunteers. Household items also were collected and distributed.
“We got so much response from people who said they never could have accomplished everything that was completed without help,” Blevins said. “It saved so much money for people with needs.”
Now, the group’s attention turns to its annual fundraising campaign.
Blevins said United Way has shifted focus to advancing the common good by addressing education, income and health in communities it serves, but the fundraising effort is still necessary. The Heart of Kentucky chapter hopes to raise $1.275 million this year.