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Volunteers fan out across Centre County for Day of Caring

Penn State Navy ROTC volunteers Kyle McGarry, left, and Joe Barclay right, load a wheel barrel with mulch. Volunteers work at the Columbus Chapel and Boal Mansion Museum for the United Way Day of Caring October 1, 2015.
Penn State Navy ROTC volunteers Kyle McGarry, left, and Joe Barclay right, load a wheel barrel with mulch. Volunteers work at the Columbus Chapel and Boal Mansion Museum for the United Way Day of Caring October 1, 2015. CDT Photo

It doesn’t have to be a sunny day to volunteer your time and help the community.

Thursday marked the Col. Gerald Russell United Way Day of Caring in Centre County. Sponsored by PNC Bank, volunteers came out in droves to the benefit of local nonprofits, historic sites and municipal parks.

“It’s a pretty tight day, where there’s very little spent and a lot of service done,” United Way special events coordinator Beth Shaha said. “And the whole community is involved.”

More than 1,700 people came out across the county, she said, working on 121 separate sites. Projects spanned the county — from State College and Bellefonte to Philipsburg and the Moshannon Valley — with everything from gardening to painting to window washing.

One of the largest projects for the day encompassed the grounds surrounding the Boal Mansion Museum, as more than 200 volunteers worked on multiple aspects of the museum grounds, including creating trails to connect the 48 acres of the estate to the different green spaces in Boalsburg.

“Often, we build these parks, but they’re little islands,” museum director Bob Cameron said. “So this is an attempt to bring them together.”

A half-mile trail that leads to Blue Spring Park was being covered in mulch, he said. The trail was started by Penn State students during the university’s Fresh START Day of Service in August, and was being completed Thursday by students in the university’s Navy ROTC program.

ROTC cadets also worked on creating a trail that would stretch out from the mansion to nearby Route 45, he said.

Cadet and sophomore Nicholas Karabin said it was nice to help out on the Day of Caring, as cadets worked in one-and-a-half-hour shifts to avoid interfering with their class schedules.

“It’s nice helping out in Boalsburg, helping to get the place ready for the year,” he said.

As cadets assisted in various groundskeeping tasks, including mulching an area outside the mansion for a future rhododendron garden, Penn State staff touched up the adjacent Nittany Theatre at the Barn with paint, stains and other shop work.

Volunteers repainted the concession stand, said artistic director Dave Saxe, and also touched up the the main bank barn doors and staining the exterior deck.

Day of Caring is when the theater has the most volunteers, he said.

“Once a year, you have this blessing of 15 to 20 extra people to do jobs you can’t do when you’re running a theater,” he said.

Expenses and supplies were covered by PNC Bank, Lowe’s and Home Depot, Shaha said, and have been partnered with United Way for the Day of Caring for 22 years. More than 200 gallons of paint, stain and sealer were donated by the home improvement stores.

Nonprofit and historical sites send in project proposals requesting volunteers prior to the day, she said, and are rarely turned down. Volunteers are later recruited and connected with different projects based on their skills.

“United Way is thrilled by today,” she said. “We’ve had a great turnout.”

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