Week of Caring 2022 Wrap-up

Every effort held meaning to the organizations.

Every volunteer gave time without complaint.

Every heart swelled with pride over the collaborative effort.

United Way Suncoast’s 30th annual Week of Caring teemed with dedication from volunteers and gratitude from the nonprofit recipients. UWS couldn’t be more pleased with how the region’s largest volunteer initiative connected hands-on service with organizations and individuals in need.

“This was truly a team effort,” said UWS community engagement director Autumn Pandolfo. “I’m humbled by the support of our amazing team and volunteers and grateful for their willingness to partner. We hope this week was just the start of deeper, transformational volunteer supports for our community.”

The celebration of community service inspired 490 volunteers to complete 53 projects for 26 organizations. The work extended to more than 1,100 hours, delivering a value of $31,736 to groups still grappling with the effects of the pandemic, spiraling inflation and pressing staff shortages.

The week took off at Tampa International Airport, where 2,000 participants rose on April 2 to join the 5K On The Runway. The generosity of the runners and TIA helped United Way Suncoast raise more than $80,000.

On April 4, beneath a mural at Booker T. Washington Elementary that said “Character Is Power,” Pat Fearns lived those words as Week of Caring continued at the historic Tampa school.

Pat, a specialist at Greenway Health, added to the 100-plus volunteer hours she’s devoted to United Way Suncoast by joining Jennifer Frances to distribute books from Frances’ Bess The Book Bus.

“Over the last several years,” Pat said, “especially as things have become more challenging in our world, I have been very motivated to simply ‘help where I can,’ so that everyone can experience feeling appreciated, valued and important to the overall fabric of goodness in this world.”

The volunteers who arrived at Feeding Tampa Bay on April 5 didn’t give blood or shed tears, but they put in a lot of sweat in unpacking and sorting donations. United Way Suncoast board members Robbie Artz (Tampa Bay Rays), Carl Harness (city of Tampa), Michelle Grimsley (The Southern Group), Tabitha Roach (GTE Financial) and Matt Walker (Thomas Howell Ferguson) joined UWS CEO Jessica Muroff and other staffers for the three-hour effort.

Muroff also conducted a live interview with Sarah Rosario from WTSP-Ch. 10 to highlight Week of Caring. Projects continued on April 6 and April 7, all leading up to a big weekend across the region.

City of Sarasota volunteers returned to Mothers Helping Mothers on April 8 to again sort donations. Luisa Patton continues to volunteer and support Week of Caring every year and infuses that work into the City of Sarasota campaign and their support of United Way Suncoast’s work. They’re even inspired to do another project – the collection and development of literacy kits to support the children in our community.

Support of children also emerged during the Alliance for Public Schools’ GradNation event on April 8. Volunteers from Bausch & Lomb and big names like Heidi Shimberg supported the event in Brandon that recognized 150 Hillsborough and Pinellas County aspiring students and gave them a chance to discuss the impact of the pandemic on their education.

Individual, at-home projects provided support for our teachers, who continue to encourage and lift up students. Volunteer leader Dana Weekley-Smith wrote 600 cards, each carefully crafted to uplift the intended educators.

The education support continued on April 9 when volunteers from Bealls took on a project at Bradenton’s Manatee United Methodist Preschool. A part of our Quality Childcare Initiative, it’s always a little brighter for preschoolers on Monday morning when they’re greeted by Saturday painting.

On April 9, Artz and fellow board members Annemarie Hare (Northern Trust), Becky Pickett (Better Choice Company) and Emily Diaz (Citibank) joined a corporate group, Total Quality Logistics, at Camelot Community Care independent living. They beautified the grounds, and applied elbow grease to a beautiful historic facility. Officials shuttered the home for independent living foster youth due to the pandemic. By the time the volunteers were finished, the center was ready to welcome youth back in person for support and fellowship.

Meanwhile, Joseph Calinski led his team from Edwards in completion of a massive project at Easterseals of Southwest Florida in Bradenton on April 9. Joe has volunteered with United Way Suncoast for almost 10 years, and his group of engineers proved extremely efficient. We’re lucky that Joe keeps returning each Week of Caring and also for other regular volunteer projects throughout the year.

Really, we’re lucky that all of our volunteers continue to serve, not just for one week in April but throughout the entire year.

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