For the 25th straight year, Savannah River Site employees fanned out across Aiken County Friday to take part in the annual Project Vision Day of Caring.
This year's event, an initiative of the United Way of Aiken County, was a bit smaller in size, due to COVID-19-related restrictions. There were only 16 service sites, the volunteer teams at each site were much smaller and only exterior repairs were allowed.
However, the volunteers who attended were working as hard as ever.
Charlie Neill, the team lead at the Mental Health America of Aiken County Nurture Home, at 232 Greenville St. N.W., said his crew would be planting 20 plants, including azaleas and hydrangeas, at the site and installing a sprinkler to water them.
One of Neill's co-leads took the four pieces of furniture on the Nurture Home's porch home to clean and repair them prior to Friday, and then Neill's crew was painting them on the site.
Project Vision was created in 1996, with Vision being an acronym for "volunteers in service in our neighborhood."
"It started out as just groups of employees from Savannah River Site going on their Fridays off, which a lot of them still do, and providing facility upkeep for a lot of the United Way partner agencies," said Tammy Ruth, United Way of Aiken County's director of community investment. "It became very, very popular."
Eventually, the group began taking requests from the community to work on their homes. On Friday, there were five such community projects, with two in Aiken, two in Graniteville and one in Windsor.
These community applicants must be at least 62 years old, disabled, live on a very low income, own the home and live in Aiken County.
Howard Dye, a site lead at one of the community projects, said he enjoys participating in the event because it "helps families in need and gives a helping hand when needed."
"This Day of Caring means that agencies and people in the community that need home repairs, elderly and disabled folks, have access to repairs that they otherwise wouldn’t have," said Sharon Rodgers, United Way of Aiken County's president. "These aren’t to make the houses look nice. These are to make them safe and habitable."
Speaking about the work at the Nurture Home, Rodgers emphasized its importance, as the home provides housing for women and children with mental illness.
"There’s people that are living here," Rodgers said. "It’s got to be safe and habitable. It needs to have a warm aesthetic. If it doesn’t have that, it’s not providing the atmosphere that we want to make sure that people thrive."
For more information on how to get involved with Project Vision, contact Ruth at 803-648-8331.