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Editor's Notebook
August 8, 2020

5/14/2012 2:32:00 PM
Restoration of faith
Day of Caring leader impressed by stellar effort by volunteers
Amy Voss and her daughter, Madison, 8, apply a fresh coat of paint to the footbridge in the North Vernon City Park during the Jennings County United Way’s Day of Caring.
Amy Voss and her daughter, Madison, 8, apply a fresh coat of paint to the footbridge in the North Vernon City Park during the Jennings County United Way’s Day of Caring.
Clint Osborne, from left, Sherrie Elkins and Jeffrey Roesner clear debris from a yard at a home in Country Squire Lake during this year’s Day of Caring.
Clint Osborne, from left, Sherrie Elkins and Jeffrey Roesner clear debris from a yard at a home in Country Squire Lake during this year’s Day of Caring.
For Kelly Sabelhaus and a couple dozen others, the Jennings County Unit­ed Way Day of Caring started five weeks before the official date of the 11th annual event.

Sabelhaus, Mark Dear­ing, Troy Jackson and teens from youth groups at the First Baptist and First United Methodist churches replaced a roof on the Sci­pio area home of a single-parent family of four.

"This was supposed to be a Day of Caring project but it couldn't wait that long," Sabelhaus said. "The entire parameter of the roof was leaking."

The group tackled the project in early March, completing the work in 11/2 days.

That whetted the appetite so to speak for Sab­el­haus, who then chaired the Day of Caring event last month. And, appropriately enough, that work continues with one of the projects completed last week and another yet to be finished.

Sabelhaus, a North Vernon man who owns and manages Greensburg Vault Works, also has a 17-year professional background in construction, which made him the ideal choice to chair this year's Day of Caring event, the first one in which he ever participated.

Over 550 volunteers, the most ever, came together on April 21 to work on 75 different projects throughout Jennings County and even into the tornado-damaged Holton area.

"It was amazing," Sab­elhaus said, "to see that many people come together to do work for people they don't even know and organizations that they have no connection with."

Volunteers did everything from painting to yard work and landscaping to cleaning at both private homes and at such places as the Jennings County

4-H Fairgrounds and the Senior Resource Center.

"One of the projects that stood out was at a home of three women - a grandmother, mother and daughter - in Country Squire Lakes," Sabelhaus said. "The yard, a double lot, was just totally full of debris with tree limbs, leaves and an 80-foot tree that had fallen in it. Our team hauled off all the stuff and by the end of the morning, the yard was spotless. That was impressive."

At the North Vernon Senior Housing apartment complex, teens with the Jennings Youth Involve­ment Team cleaned windows and other work. A trio of volunteers knocked on one of the apartment doors and was let inside. The wary resident asked, "How much is this going to cost me?" When told there was no charge, she exclaimed, "Oh my!"

"We saw a lot of that," Sabelhaus said. "The people were extremely grateful and many couldn't believe that we were doing this at no cost to them. The labor alone on Day of Caring would total tens of thousands of dollars, not counting materials.

"Once the home owners realize that the volunteers are helping them and asking nothing in return, they are so thankful. That makes it all worth while for the workers. Day of Caring restores your faith in the community. It's a priceless feeling that stays with you," he added.

The Day of Caring effort has grown every year and is now to the point where there are so many volunteer laborers that more projects are needed.

"We could probably do a lot more, and we're looking at ways to increase awareness in the community so people such as the elderly, disabled and poor submit projects to United Way," Sabelhaus said. "Many in the public don't realize what Day of Caring is about and what we're capable of doing. We could do more work at individual home projects and get them done well. It's great that we have people doing work at the city park (where picnic tables and a foot bridge were painted), the fairgrounds, the Senior Center and other agencies, but we have so many volunteers that we hope to expand the number of private home and apartment projects."

If that sounds like Sab­el­haus is going to chair next year's Day of Caring, he likely is, he admitted.

"Cheri (United Way director Cheri Massey) has been lobbying pretty hard to get me to commit for next year," he laughed. "I probably will. I can't think of anything more worthwhile. Now that I've been through it, I know more what to expect and will be more organized."

Sabelhaus got hooked on Day of Caring with the roofing project on a cold, drizzly weekend over two months ago.

"Seeing 25 or 30 kids on that roof, tearing off the old shingles and decking, working hard to get the job done, was pretty amazing," he admitted. "It sometimes seems like you can't get kids off the couch to clean their room, yet here they were all coming together, working their tails off for a family that really needed it."

That project was put on the United Way's "Heart­break List," a new year-round initiative that lists Day of Caring-like projects submitted by families in need.

"At the Day of Caring lunch (where after completing their work volunteers ate pizza donated by Lowe's Regional Distribution Cen­ter), I challenged the volunteers to take it upon themselves to get that list gone," said Sabelhaus, who has already adopted another one of those projects himself.

Next year's Day of Caring will be held on April 20, 2013.

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