MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — More than 1,000 volunteers tackled projects both large and small in the Eastern Panhandle this week as part of the 17th Day of Caring, the annual blitz of community service organized by United Way of the Eastern Panhandle.
One of those projects took place at the Inwood, W.Va., home of Shirley Simmons.
Weakened by multiple sclerosis, Simmons was especially grateful to volunteers Jeanne Kozak and Randy Faircloth, who built a new porch and wheelchair-accessible ramp on the front of her small home off Nadenbousch Lane.
They began working on the project on Monday, Simmons’ 63rd birthday.
“It was like I got the biggest present of my life,” Simmons said Tuesday while Kozak and Faircloth were sawing pressure-treated wood for the project and hammering it into place.
Kozak, owner of Re/Max In Action, and Faircloth, who works for contractor Dulyea Construction, were happy to help Simmons, who said she began using a wheelchair earlier this year.
“The holes (for the support posts) were a little tough to dig,” said Faircloth of the challenge posed by digging eight, 30-inch holes into the shale ground outside Simmons’ home.
Simmons, who had to give up driving a vehicle about four years ago, said she is happy to be able to go outside to watch the hummingbirds and other wildlife feed near her home without fear of falling.
Trina Bartlett of United Way of the Eastern Panhandle said the wheelchair ramp project was among several completed as part of the Day of Caring this year in Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties.
Other Day of Caring projects tackled this year included:
• A team of 17 volunteers with West Virginia University Hospitals-East helped build a completely new bathroom in a Charles Town, W.Va., home for a resident who is paralyzed from the waist down, Bartlett said.
• Gutters were repaired and new flooring was installed across the area as part of Day of Caring projects as well, according to Bartlett.
• A team of Shepherd University basketball players cleared an overgrown backyard for a family, and there was a cleanup of Opequon Creek that yielded a substantial amount of trash, Bartlett said.
• More than 9,000 pounds of food was collected in the Eastern Panhandle as part of the event’s “mega” food drive, Barlett said.
Given that some of the projects, such as a handicapped-accessible ramp, are critical needs, Bartlett said there have been discussions about trying to coordinate the completion of such projects year-round, rather than through the massive service event staged each September.
At the Martinsburg Boys & Girls Club, volunteers tackled fairly routine maintenance projects for the nonprofit organization’s building.
Tile flooring on the main level of the building that had not been stripped and waxed for some time was being cleaned Tuesday afternoon by a team of volunteers from Yellowbook.
After several hours of cleaning, Lisa Fausey needed a Band-Aid for a blister that formed between the thumb and forefinger on her left hand.
“All my kids have gone to this club,” Fausey said as she applied a second coat of wax on the floor of the large activity room.
In the library, WVU Hospitals-East employees Heather Miller and Kara Yates were organizing books by authors’ last names by affixing stickers to the book spines. Earlier, they painted an exterior wall of the club’s building at the corner of West John and South Queen streets.
Amber Glennon-Beahan, the club’s unit director, said a team from Hedgesville High School was working on a project in the building to make the lockers safer, and the Gateway Republican Women’s Club was steam-cleaning chairs and pulling weeds outside the building.
The Boys & Girls Club does not have a janitor to help regularly clean the city-owned building, officials said.
Many of the club’s staff also volunteered for the Day of Caring, but Glennon-Beahan credited United Way for helping supply volunteers for the projects, which she said wouldn’t be easily accomplished without them.
“We need to have two or three Day of Carings a year,” said J.J. Bullett, recreation specialist/program aide for the club.