HATTIESBURG, Miss. – On Thursday, June 17, United Way of Southeast Mississippi (UWSEMS) volunteers sprang into action to create a meaningful impact throughout the community for United Way’s global Day of Action.
Traditionally held on or near the longest day of the year, Day of Action invites volunteers of all ages to participate in community service and a day of giving. This annual event encourages people and organizations worldwide to take action and volunteer in the community to help improve the quality of life in areas of education, economic mobility and health. The local event was organized in conjunction with Volunteer Southeast Mississippi.
This year, UWSEMS partnered with local businesses, groups and individuals to participate in Day of Action on various projects, including landscaping, painting, cleaning, carpentry, organizing donations and working in the soup kitchen. Volunteers even picked blueberries at Edwards Street Fellowship Center.
“We are so grateful because the United Way supports two of our programs – our food pantry and medical clinic,” Ann McCullen, executive director of Edwards Street Fellowship Center, said. “Today, the volunteer surge was incredible. Our blueberry trees bloom quickly in our community gardens, so we were thankful for the timing of this year’s event that it happened when the blueberries were covering up the bushes.”
“The great thing about Day of Action is that it gives people the opportunity to go into nonprofits and other organizations that they may not have been aware of in the past,” McCullen said. “We were really excited about the work that was done today but also what it promises for the future.”
Employees of Regions Bank in Hattiesburg showed up to pick blueberries at Edwards Street Fellowship Center, and by lunchtime, the group had delivered buckets full of ripe berries that would eventually be given out through the center’s food pantry.
“Our employer gives us a day off each year to volunteer, which I have done ever since I was hired nearly 10 years ago,” said Ladonna McCain, property preservation specialist at Regions Bank. “It’s such a great opportunity to give back to the community.”
Patrick Lowery, an employee with the accounting firm Horne LLP in Hattiesburg, was a member of the team that volunteered at Christian Services in Hattiesburg as a part of Horne’s “Summer of Service” initiative.
“We do a lot of work in the offices. We are inside, obviously, with a lot of us doing accounting or stuff like that, so it’s good to get out to be outside, to be able to give back, sweat a little bit and enjoy our time serving,” said Lowery.
Lowery helped to organize a warehouse and repaint a few walls. He said it’s rewarding to him on a personal level.
“Not only are we helping the organizations, as a person it feels good to able to serve, to see the smiles, and to see what impact we have and to better our community,” Lowery said.
Including Horne and Regions, at least 55 volunteers from across the Pine Belt participated in Day of Action, representing a range of local businesses and groups like Pine Belt Young Professionals, Hancock Whitney, Jones Logistics and Grand Bank. Seven local nonprofits were served by volunteers, including Domestic Abuse Family Shelter, Habitat for Humanity of the Pine Belt, Edwards Street Fellowship Center, RISE, R3SM and Christian Services.
“This year's Day of Action was a great example of the generous and resilient spirit of our local communities and volunteers,” said Jonah Taylor, Director of Marketing and Communications for United Way of Southeast Mississippi. “This was the first Day of Action United Way of Southeast Mississippi and Volunteer Southeast Mississippi have organized since before the pandemic, so we weren't sure what kind of volunteer participation to expect. We were excited to see so many people come out to get involved in these hands-on projects at nonprofits throughout our service areas, and the agencies they helped are grateful to the volunteers for their service.”