January 18, 2022

Good vibrations at Day of Caring

Courtney Peters, Jennifer Geibel and Jenny Robinson box up barbecue chicken dinners during a Day of Caring event at Beaudry Park Wednesday.

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Courtney Peters, Jennifer Geibel and Jenny Robinson box up barbecue chicken dinners during a Day of Caring event at Beaudry Park Wednesday.

McGraw High senior Skylar White knows full well what it’s like to help someone else.

“I regularly volunteer for student council, do dinners for the elderly, help with the Empty Bowls fundraiser. I have done this before,” she said of the United Way Day of Caring.

On Wednesday, she and 25 other McGraw High School students spread out in their village, doing projects for non-profits, churches and town offices.

White’s group of five spent the morning filling in potholes at the village office and washing windows on the building.

“I feel good helping people. It gives you a warm feeling,” said White, who is considering a career in social work. “Helping with the church and the pantry, it makes you appreciate what you have and not take things for granted.”

“It is awesome,” said Lori Aiken, village clerk. “We appreciate them coming once a year, they do great work.”

Day of Caring is a day set aside for volunteers to do projects for agencies that may not have the staff to do so. Racker Center people did work at thet YMCA and YWCA while the Walsh Law Firm and Seven Valley Health Coalition collected food donations and sorted.

The Day of Caring has also evolved into the Wendy Thibeault Memorial Food Drive, which saw 38 businesses and schools donate canned goods that will go to 12 food pantries in Cortland County, including the one Thibeault co-founded at the McGraw Methodist Church.

“It helps the community and our small town of McGraw,” said Daniel Hammond, a senior at the school.

Jenny Tucker, health teacher, and Pam Coombs, business teacher, have organized the effort out of McGraw for 21 years now.

“We couldn’t do what we do without them,” said Renee Lobdell, outreach chairman at the McGraw Methodist Church. “Twenty-six kids this year, times six hours per kid. That’s a lot of community service.”

“Day of Caring is a great event — it honors our dear friend, Wendy Thibeault, who started our pantry,” said Lobdell.
McGraw High School students were scrubbing the parsonage, church garage, cleaning their kitchen and the Baptist Church sanctuary next door.

The Day of Caring has been “fantastic,” said Christella Yonta, executive director for United Way.

Cortland Jr. Sr. High staff delivered two car loads of food Wednesday and SUNY Cortland alone had 20 boxes of food to donate.

“It’s just great to see all the community participation, businesses, schools and kids,” said A.J. Meldrim, an attorney at the Walsh Law Firm.

He and Jennifer Geibel, director of the YWCA Learning Adventure child care program, oversaw a Day of Caring BBQ Wednesday at Beaudry Park, where employees signed up for a chicken dinner.

Yonta said the Day of Caring was done in partnership with Bob’s BBQ, which supplied the food, and proceeds from the luncheon is going to the campaign to support its programs.

Brenda Cottone and her daughter, Nicole, both Cortland professionals and the first mother-daughter campaign co-chairs in Cortland history for United Way, also formally kicked off the 2017 United Way for Cortland County effort to raise $500,000 for its agencies that support programs like literacy, counseling and child care.

Nicole Cottone is challenging people to up their weekly contributions to $5 a week for the campaign.
“How much do you spend on coffee every week?” she said.

She spends a good $10 a week on that alone, which could be cut down to give to the campaign.

Courtney Peters, an employee at the Cortland Child Development Center, said this is her fourth year volunteering at Day of Caring. She was helping set up barbecue lunches.

“It’s going great. We had some kindergartners from Randall Elementary (helping sort food). That was very energizing.”
“United Way supports Cortland Child Development Center. This is a way of giving back. This is one of the fundraisers we do,” she said.