LAFAYETTE — More than 500 volunteers took to the streets of Acadiana on Friday to take part in the United Way’s National Day of Action.
The volunteers fanned out to Girard Park, Breaux Bridge Elementary School, the Lafayette Parish Health Unit and other locations, where they engaged in a variety of activities
They read to children, helped educate them on budgeting and saving, worked on community beautification projects and provided families with food and personal hygiene items.
The National Day of Action is traditionally held June 21, but because that date fell on a Saturday this year, a decision was made to hold it a day earlier to help the greatest number of people, said Krista Richmond, United Way of Acadiana’s online engagement manager.
She said United Way organizations across the globe take part in the event.
“We call it a Day of Action to encourage more people to take action,” Richmond said.
United Way of Acadiana serves Acadia, Lafayette, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes, and Friday’s Day of Action saw volunteers active in all four parishes.
Joe Long, unit director for the Boys and Girls Club in Lafayette, said the extra help is invaluable.
“We have volunteers read and do different craft projects with our kids,” Long said. “It is a way for United Way to give back to our organization and it is tremendous. Time is more important than money. For these people to give their time goes a long way.”
Cydra Wingerter, United Way’s director of resource development, said United Way gives back to the community multiple times a year, but the Day of Action is among the most popular.
“Year-round, we have school supply drives, a community-wide book drive, canned food drives,” Wingerter said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a strong volunteer base. We have corporate volunteers and people come to us in many different ways, but we are fortunate to have this activity that people look forward to annually and keep wanting to do it again.”
Cindy Segura, who is on the women’s resource group community team at Baker Hughes, a supplier of oilfield services, products, technology and systems to the oil and natural gas industry, said she got involved with the Day of Action for the first time this year.
“We actually contacted them and got a list of the events and projects that they have in the community,” Segura said. “We chose to support this one this time. We have meetings planned with United Way to get more involved, to have more events together.”
The women’s resource group at Baker Hughes set up a drive at all of their Broussard and Lafayette locations and received more than 3,200 everyday household items that it presented to United Way at the Robicheaux Center on Friday.
“Baker Hughes has always supported United Way through monetary donations,” Segura said. “This is a way for the employees to make an impact in the community personally. This was our first go at it and I think it was extremely successful.”
Wingerter said the volunteers put a lot of thought into activities and programs to help the community and the Day of Action is the most enjoyable. The United Way experience is very fulfilling, she said.
“It can sometimes feel selfish,” Wingerter said. “You almost feel like you are getting more out of it than those we are serving. It is very reciprocal and a wonderful way to engage with the children and they love the attention. It is very fulfilling to know you are putting in time that is going to make a difference in the long term.”