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The United Way Day of Caring is an annual event in September engaging businesses and other professional teams in volunteer service around central Florida.   Members of a UCF executive team and campaign advocates volunteered with the Osceola Council on Aging as part of this year’s Day of Caring.  To learn more about the Osceola Council on Aging, visit http://www.osceolagenerations.org/.

A team of 16 employees from the UCF office of University Support in Administration and Finance joined their Associate Vice President in volunteering at the Osceola Council on Aging on the 2015 Day of Caring. The team hosted a BINGO and social day at the center providing UCF-themed game prizes, assistance with handing out coffee and snacks, and getting to know some of the individuals in attendance.   Some of the volunteers also assisted in the preparation and packing of more than 800 dinners for the Meals on Wheels program.

The experience of volunteering helps connect us directly to the ways that our donations make an impact, so that when we make a donation through the university’s United Way Campaign we know some of the faces that benefit from our contribution. Volunteers at this event invested a morning to make a difference – and the return on that investment was amazing. We each came away with a new understanding of the need for volunteers and for agencies like this one, and a greater understanding of the critical services provided by these organizations.

Here are some of the volunteer reactions in their own words:

 Describe the role you played at this volunteer event – what was your personal impact?

  • My role was to prepare meals for the center’s Meals on Wheels program.  It was very interesting to work alongside not only other members of the UCF team, but also along with the employees of the center and a few work release individuals from the local jail.  In our daily lives we typically do not interact with those that have a criminal past, but it was good to speak with them and encourage them through this day that we are all humans working together to help others.
  • I would like to start out saying that the video we observed was very inspiring, it reflects that there are massive amount of individuals that are not in our presence, that truly depend on people like you and myself to uplift and inspire a portion of joy into their lives. I created and helped prepared literally 840 meals that supported the present event and outside families depending on these meals and it was very uplifting to my spirit.
  • Bingo helper, chatter, and food server
  • My role was helping in the main hall. I helped by organizing and getting the bingo prizes ready, passing out spoons, helping translate the different cereals offered to the Spanish speaking seniors.
  • I assisted with bingo at the center and worked with our office admin, Denise Hiatt, to secure prizing for bingo.
  • Meeting people, laughing with them, learning a little about them, sharing meaningful moments, and photographing the event & volunteers so that this wonderful experience could inspire others to volunteer in the community and to support the university’s United Way campaign so that agencies like this one can continue their mission to make a difference in people’s lives.

What was something that you learned about this agency that surprised or impressed you?

  • I was surprised to see the volume of people they feed with their program.  I think we prepared over 500 meals that will be leaving the facility to help those in need within the community.
  • What was most inspiring is that this organization depends on the hard team work daily that each and every one of us put into making this a success.
  • The incredible passion of everyone who worked there
  • I did not know that this agency existed until I heard about it through UCF. I shared my experience with about a half dozen individuals the following day, it’s all about word of mouth. I mentioned all of the great things that agency does such as Meals on Wheels and setting up activities for the seniors.
  • I was honestly surprised to find out that the council helps other age groups outside of senior citizens.
  • The scope of services offered by this agency to ensure quality of life are astounding – to include helping individuals live independently in their own homes, assisting disabled individuals, providing nutritional counseling, case management, adult day care, and more.

What was one of the most memorable moments for you at this event?

  • I don’t think there was any one moment, but more of an entire experience of giving of myself for the good of others that will be a lasting memory.
  • The most memorable moment is that I knew in my heart that this meant so very much to someone that was on the receiving end of this, which gave me a motivation to work nonstop to create that smile that I know someone had from my efforts.
  • Talking to Nellie who was at my table
  • Hearing the life journeys and stories of others is an inspiring, humbling experience. I met June, who was born late at the end of July, but her mother still named her June anyway – and she is still late to everything to this day, and Bev, born in Salt Lake City and moved to California, lived 15 years in Guam with her husband, and after his life journey ended she came to Florida. June and Bev met many years ago and with little family left of their own adopted each other as sisters. They love the Center, spending time with each other and others at the Center, meeting volunteers, and laughing. They’re pretty feisty with their bingo and intent on winning at least one set – which June did (but late in the game, of course).
  • I recall a lady who was not able to open her cereal cup or milk carton, I felt great joy in opening and pouring her milk. She was really happy and thanked me so much, for me it was no big deal. Her gratefulness to such a small act brought a smile to my face for the rest of the day.
  • I enjoyed going from table to table and interacting with the different senior citizens. They were a pretty fun group!

How did the experience of volunteering at a United Way agency change or inform your decision to support the university’s United Way campaign?

  • It let me know that it is not just about giving $, but more so about giving your time to help.
  • The experience change me in a special way that when I have moments free from the daily routine of life, work and taking care of family, I would like to spend more time to receive my inner rewards placing smiles on people that are placed in a position to  truly appreciate the dedication of the work because they are truly Grateful
  • Just being able to personally experience how they support the community makes you want to support them.
  • I would gladly participate in any future volunteer projects with UCF and the community. I think it is wonderful that we can give back, and I am proud that our university participates in such programs.
  • It was a great opportunity to learn about a new agency to volunteer with in our community.
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Special thanks to Associate Vice President Curt Sawyer for inspiring his team of executives to volunteer together for this event.