A new name will be given to the United Way Day of Caring in honor of an old friend.
Organizers will rename the event the Col. Gerald Russell Day of Caring in honor of the man who founded it 20 years ago.
The new name will become official Thursday at the 21st annual Day of Caring, which will include a memorial ceremony at 10 a.m. during which Eileen Moser, Russell’s daughter, will be presented with a framed Day of Caring T-shirt in honor of her father, who died in February.
“I was honestly brought to tears when I got the call ... that it will be rededicated and renamed in his honor,” Moser said. “He just loved it with his heart and soul.”
Russell was involved in the event every year, even last year, Moser said.
“He just loved the event, and I think what he liked is it reached so many parts of the community and did so many things that couldn’t be done without people offering supplies and volunteers offering their time,” she said.
The Day of Caring — on the first Thursday in October — benefits local nonprofits, historical sites, parks and municipal properties in Centre County. This year’s special ceremony will be at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Preschool on Westerly Parkway in State College.
Co-chairwoman Sue Paterno will speak at a 7:30 a.m. breakfast for about 1,400 volunteers before they begin work on the 93 projects on tap for the day.
“He wanted to start it, and he came to me,” Paterno said in recalling Russell’s idea to unite community volunteers. “I worked with him on the Special Olympics, and if you worked on anything with him you know he knows what he’s doing. He just thought it’d be a great idea, and it’s really amazing to see what it’s become.”
Event coordinator Beth Shaha also recalled Russell’s commitment to the community.
“He was very committed to this and always made sure there was no project left undone,” Shaha said. “He believed in coming together as a community, and he wanted to commit one day in the year to volunteering to help others even if you had to take off a day of work. I think that was his true heart — helping people — and he made it happen.”
Shaha said people can still volunteer by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Russell was also known for his work with Toys for Tots, the Olympics and the Special Olympics, his work at Penn State and his decorated 28 years of service in the Marine Corps.