Little by little, Jerry Buck is cleaning up his home and his life.
He scraped paint off the deck of his once dilapidated Franklin mobile home, while volunteers painted the inside, pulled weeds from his landscaping and installed cabinets and blinds in his kitchen.
Volunteers for the annual United Way Day of Caring became part of his plan to get his life on track.
A few months ago, Buck was released from jail after a five-month sentence on a DUI charge. He lost his son to the state and his wife to divorce. He was given a trailer for free, with the caveat that he make it livable again.
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After sleeping in his car for a few days until he could make the trailer habitable, he started making improvements. He has regained custody of his 9-year-old son. And volunteers helped make his trailer a home, he said.
“I’ve never had help like this,” Buck said. “I have always been too stubborn to ask for help.”
More than 384 volunteers fanned out across the county Thursday to help agencies that the United Way of Johnson County serves. The annual Day of Caring marks the start of the year’s fundraising campaign. The day has annually been about helping nonprofit agencies complete housekeeping projects that can’t get done while clients need help.
Volunteers spent a full day washing, painting and organizing at nonprofit agencies and, in some cases, at their clients’ homes.
At KIC-IT, a group that helps homeless community members, volunteers built two carnival games that would be the centerpiece of one of the agencies’ biggest fundraiser, executive director Kim Spurling said.
Helping clients find homes, food and basic needs takes 100 percent of their time, leaving other tasks to fall by the wayside, she said.
Workers also washed blankets and put them in bags, readying them to give to homeless families. Others separated large boxes of diapers, allowing single moms barely making it to come and get what they need.
That work alone could take employees months to complete, Spurling said.
“How do you calculate a number on this? It saves us hours of work,” she said. “Now we can focus on the families that come here.”
Even jobs that seem small could have an impact on the clients that nonprofit agencies serve.
Volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club of Franklin painted the game room, gym and replaced ceiling tiles in the cafeteria.
During the summer, the club was filled with kids for 11 hours a day. Employees closed to catch up on cleaning. Other work needed done beyond that, said Susan Sahm, program director at the Boys and Girl’s Club.
“There is no way we could paint the game room and gym in several hours,” she said. “It is important to have things that look nice for the kids.”
Part of the goal of the day of service allows volunteers to see where the donations from their paycheck goes.
“It helps us get in the community and see what our donations are doing,” said Heidi Unruh, an employee at Cross Financial Services.
Charlia Wood, an employee at Electro-Spec, spent time painting at the Boys and Girls Club.
She saw her service as a way to give back to an agency that may benefit her grandchildren when they are older, she said.
“Everyone takes it for granted, they don’t know what goes into (running a nonprofit),” she said.