STATE COLLEGE — Volunteers were raking, shoveling and getting their hands dirty at the Centre Furnace Mansion on Thursday as part of Centre County United Way’s Day of Caring.
While Sean Quinn poured mulch around trees on the grounds, Isam Ortega spread it out evenly. Other volunteers were painting the trim on the historic house, and some were laying down stone for a bench to be placed nearby.
Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of Day of Caring, in which nearly 1,000 volunteers from around the county gathered at more than 65 sites to help other nonprofit organizations with their projects.
Along with the Centre Furnace Mansion, other sites included Boal Mansion, Strawberry Fields, Our Lady of Victory, Bellaire Court, The Arc, House of Care, Rails to Trails and Greenhills Village, according to the United Way.
The day began with a volunteer appreciation breakfast with comments from Keith Barrows, senior vice president of PNC Bank, which sponsored the event. Other speakers included United Way events coordinator Beth Shaha and Executive Director Tammy Gentzel, and Col. Gerald Russell, the Day of Caring chairman who founded the local event in 1993.
“It’s just such a positive impact that brings the community together,” said Megan Evans, United Way communications coordinator. “This shows the best of who we are.”
The Centre County Historical Society has been involved in Day of Caring since it began, said Mary Sorensen, society executive director. Some projects completed for the society Thursday, besides the ones at Centre Furnace Mansion, were at the Boogersburg School, a one-room schoolhouse on Fox Hill Road in Patton Township that also is maintained by the Historical Society.
Sorensen said that throughout the day, more than 200 volunteers spent their time helping maintain the mansion, while about 30 volunteers where scheduled to help out at the school.
“It’s such an incredible gift for us,” she said. “This is an important piece of history for this community and county, and for all these people to come out on their own time to give back is more than we can thank them for.”
The mansion dates back to the 1830s, and trees on the property predate the incorporation of Centre County in 1800, said Lee Stout, a member of the historical society.
“It’s a substantial operation by volunteers,” he said. “With historical ground like this, it always needs work.”
Volunteers included those from Penn State’s Office of the Physical Plant, Sigma Nu fraternity, ROTC, employees at Minitab Inc. and other community members.
Volunteer Katie Frieden helps maintain the garden every Thursday at the Centre Furnace Mansion. She said that without hard-working volunteers, maintaining its upkeep would be impossible.
“I’m just thrilled that so many people have come out to help us, and they don’t even have to,” Frieden said. “None of this would be possible without them.”
She said that Penn State donated equipment and services to help get the projects finished, including tools, machinery, mulch, dirt, stone and more.
Penn State freshman Shane Martin, of Athens, heard about Day of Caring and wanted to be a part of giving back.
“I heard a lot about it and figured it was a good way to be a part of the State College community, other than just on-campus activities,” he said. “I signed up with a couple friends, and it’s already kind of rewarding.”
Evans said that planning for Day of Caring is something the United Way and PNC Bank work on all year; however, the bulk of the planning is kicked into gear about six months ahead of time.
She said that volunteers and organizations contact the United Way, where organizers then prioritize projects and spread out volunteers around county activities.
Evans added that this year, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Home Depot donated 219 gallons of paint and primer, while other companies, like JRS Landscaping, of Julian, and Stone Valley Construction, of State College, donated resources as well.
“It’s an unbelievable partnership and community effort to give back,” Evans said.
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.