The Day of Caring is a national event involving about 500 United Way organizations throughout the country and is designed as a way for the community to give back to local nonprofits, according to Michael Kint, chief executive officer of the United Way of Indian River County.

"The Day of Caring is a great way for nonprofit agencies to have work performed for them by volunteers," said Kint. "It's another way for people to contribute to different organizations that they believe make a difference in their community."

Making an impact on the community is the reason the crew from Elliott Merrill gave up their Saturday morning to work for the Boys and Girls Club, according to Vice President Karen Merrill.

"We want to help our communities build a sense of community," said Merrill, whose firm provides management services to more than 90 condominium and home owner associations on the Treasure Coast. "Since our staff is so spread out, it gives them a chance to get together in one place and volunteer for a really good cause."

The combined crew of management, office personnel and maintenance technicians scrubbed, sanded and painted the interior of the clubhouse and spiffed up the outside landscaping.

This was the 15th time that Elliott Merrill staff donated their time and expertise to a project sponsored by the United Way, according to Merrill. In exchange for their efforts, the company offers staff a paid half-day off of their choosing sometime during the coming year.

Elliott Merrill Administrative Assistant Julie Barrett, from Sebastian, said the crew worked fast and accomplished a lot during the four-hour time slot.

"We really had a lot of fun," said Barrett, who volunteers for the event each year. "By noon, we had painted all of the rooms and weeded all the way around the building."

In 2005, 497 United Way agencies participated with 355,426 volunteers, up from 298 agencies and 312,795 volunteers in 2000. Locally, more than 500 volunteers from 40 organizations contributed their time and talents to complete 26 projects for nonprofit organizations since 2001.

When community partners like Elliott Merrill donate their services, Boys and Girls Club Operation Director Jay Bumgarner said that it can direct more of its budget toward programs.

"This really means a lot to our kids and their families," said Bumgarden. "It helps build pride in the organization. There's nothing like fresh coat of paint to make things look good. We're thrilled anytime our community partners do something like this on our behalf."

"Connecting people who can help with people who need help is what we do best," said United Way Campaign Associate and Day of Caring Coordinator Jennifer Jones.

She added that in addition to the Boys and Girls Club project in Sebastian, there were clean-up crews and projects taking place at Gifford Youth Activity Center, Abilities Resource Center, Childcare Resources of Indian River, Samaritan Center, Hibiscus Children's Center and the Children's Home Society.

Volunteers from Northern Trust, Raymond James, Visiting Nurse Association, Proctor Construction, Seacoast National, Indian River County Supervisor of Elections, JC Penney and Schlitt Insurance Services gave volunteer hours to the service initiative.

Founded in 1961, the United Way of Indian River County works with 30 local agencies that provide essential resources for more than 38 health and human service programs including program consultation and development, investment in program initiatives, event collaborations and nonprofit incubation.

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