08/25/13 — Helping hands abound during Days of Caring

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Helping hands abound during Days of Caring

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on August 25, 2013 1:50 AM

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An 8-week-old puppy plays on the dog beds made by volunteers at the Wayne County Animal Adoption and Education Center. A group of volunteers participating in the United Way's Days of Caring made 70 dog and 20 cat beds to donate to the shelter.

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Michele Anderson sews up the end of a dog bed after it was filled by volunteers for the United Way's Days of Caring at Thistle Bee Quilt Shoppe.

As you pass by their kennels, the dogs wag their tales, bark for attention and give you the sad puppy dog eyes begging you to take them home. Some will be lucky enough to find a new owner, while others will make the Wayne County Animal Adoption and Education Center their home for a little longer.

But while they're at the shelter, they will be more comfortable thanks to the efforts of several volunteers who made beds for them at the Thistle Bee Quilt Shoppe.

Making the beds was just one of several projects held during this year's United Way of Wayne County's annual Days of Caring.

The event matches volunteers with local agencies that need help, whether it be supplies, food, landscaping work, giving blood or reading to children.

Volunteers at the Thistle Bee made 70 beds for dogs at the shelter.

Makayla Newcomb, 9, and her mother Dina stuffed the beds.

"It's not hard work to stuff the beds," Makayla said. "I did it because I like dogs."

The mother-daughter team also volunteered at last year's Days of Caring.

"We saw the dog bed project this year and I thought it would be something she would really enjoy," Dina said. "I thought about the dogs that would be getting the beds as I stuffed them. It makes us feel good that they're actually going to be sleeping on a bed instead of on the cement or in the crates."

Thistle Bee owner Mary Ellen McInnis spearheaded the project.

"It makes me feel happy we made the beds," she said. "It's a very satisfying thing. There was a store in Idaho that said pets are people, too. They're at the shelter and don't have owners so they might as well have a nice bed."

Another big project this year involved community volunteers reading to children at local day care centers.

About 60 people from places such as the city, BB&T, the state Community Federal Credit Union, Oak Forest Church's youth group and Wayne Community College stopped by day care centers around the county to read a variety of books to the children.

Brenna Wolfe, childcare health consultant with the Wayne County Health Department, went to the 2-year-old classroom at Little Bulldogs Academy in Grantham.

"I just think it's a good idea to read to children," she said. "A lot of them don't get read bedtime stories so this is a good opportunity to reach out and read to children and get them interested in books and reading."

While Ms. Wolfe read "The Adventures of Itty Bitty Spider and the Itty Bitty Mouse" to the children, they crept closer and closer to her to touch the pictures in the book and insert their own comments here and there.

"It makes me feel good that they're learning something," Ms. Wolfe said. "It may not be the direct story, but if they're looking at the pictures and they're learning something, that's always a good thing."

Delaine Tucker with the Partnership for Children of Wayne County not only matched volunteers with day care centers, but she also read to preschoolers at Little Bulldogs Academy.

"The children enjoy someone coming in from the outside reading to them," she said. "I read them 'Eating Through the Alphabet.' It gives the academics, but also during the summertime, the fruits and vegetables promote healthy eating for children. It reiterated healthy choices."

Dylan Alexander, 4, learned about the letter X, which was xigua, a kind of watermelon.

"It was fun when she read to us," he said.

"I learned about vegetables," 4-year-old Macayla Gay said. "I liked all of the letters."

United Way's community engagement manager, Catherine LeChot, said there were more than 180 volunteers signed up to help with this year's Days of Caring, with more than 200 actually coming out and logging 220 hours on 29 different projects.

"It was mind boggling and amazing. The organizations were overwhelmed a little bit with the volunteer response, but in a good way," she said.

Ms. LeChot said 70 people volunteered during last year's Days of Caring.

"I think it's the idea that one person can really impact one person's life," she said.

"And it's an eye-opening experience for a lot of people. Sometimes they're getting outside their comfort zone. And it increases their awareness of needs in the community. Hopefully, they'll continue to volunteer because they see they are making a difference."