Friday a 'Day of Caring'

May 17—VALDOSTA — Friday was a Day of Caring in South Georgia as volunteers turned out to assist aid agencies with needed work.

The spring Day of Caring saw 11 volunteer projects in Lowndes, Lanier and Coffee counties, said Valdosta United Way President and CEO Michael Smith. The United Way is the organizing nucleus for Day of Caring events.

"We had about 170 volunteers altogether," he said. Volunteer work was done at such sites as the Boy Scouts of America facility in Valdosta, the Valdosta-Lowndes County Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross and the Youth Impact Center in Lakeland, among others.

A project to pressure-wash The Haven, a battered women's shelter in Lowndes County, was abandoned due to rainy weather, but Smith said work would be done to accommodate The Haven in some way.

The Haven volunteers were diverted to work at the Second Harvest of South Georgia food bank, said Eliza McCall, Second Harvest's chief programming officer.

At Second Harvest, about 70 volunteers were at work on boxing up foodstuffs for the food bank, said McCall. Among the work being done: the creation of "disaster boxes" packed with supplies for about 20 meals, to be used quickly in emergencies, she said.

"After Hurricane Idalia swept through Valdosta (in August 2023), a lot of people who had never needed food help were suddenly looking for it," McCall said.

Second Harvest provides food services for 23 counties and provided the equivalent of 21 million meals last year, McCall said.

The food bank has been part of the Day of Caring operations for decades, she said. "I've seen pictures dating back to the 1980s showing (the food bank) with Day of Caring," McCall said.

Volunteers help organizations like Second Harvest by making it unnecessary to keep a large paid staff on hand, she said.

Friday, most of the volunteers at Second Harvest were South Georgia Medical Center employees.

Work is "coming along" on a new, much larger building for Second Harvest. McCall said that, with luck, the new location should open in spring.

Terry Richards is the senior reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times.