Volunteers in black "Live United" T-shirts were showing up all over the place in Lincoln County Wednesday, during the annual Day of Caring, put on by Heart of Kentucky United Way.
"It's hard work, but it's rewarding," said Abe Walton of Lancaster, who works as a nurse at Fort Logan Hospital in Stanford.
Walton was with a crew of volunteers who weeded the landscaping around Lincoln County Middle School Wednesday morning.
At the Lincoln County Senior Citizens' Center, Lincoln County sophomores Baleigh Lawson and Kaylie Padgett helped run a fiesta for senior citizens by organizing games and giving manicures.
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.
Jerry Shepard, Kristi Stuckel and Sherrie Cocanougher traveled down to Stanford from First Christian Church in Danville to help spruce up the First Southern Community Arts Center.
Wednesday morning, they were busy cleaning the center's windows.
"Our whole church mission is 'making disciples who make a difference,' so we're trying to live that out," Shepard said.
“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.”
Other projects in Lincoln County included staining benches at Veterans Park, cleaning at Logan's Fort and doing general upgrades and repairs on homes.
Lincoln County High School students did projects surrounding downtown Stanford’s revitalization, including painting curbs and sweeping off sidewalks.
“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.
Editor's note: Advocate-Messenger Staff Writer David Brock contributed to this report.