Record Day of Caring Estimated 8,500 volunteers pitch in on community projects

Kelvin Smith (left) and Amanda Wineman along with other military personnel from Joint Base Charleston build an outdoor classroom Friday at College Park Elementary School. Thousands of volunteers took part in the Trident United Way’s Day of Caring.

Charleston turned green on Friday as more volunteers than ever, clad in kelly green T-shirts, took a day away from work or school to help at the annual Day of Caring service event.

Although final numbers are not in, Trident United Way community volunteer coordinator Sally Burnett said she was being conservative in estimating that 8,500 volunteers participated in about 600 projects. The first Day of Caring held in the Lowcountry, in 2000, had 17 projects and 185 volunteers. Last year’s event drew 8,000 volunteers.

“It’s hard to know exactly how many people participated this year because we keep hearing about situations where somebody signed up 10 people and showed up with 30,” Burnett said. Other individuals just showed up at agencies to help, and those who couldn’t miss a day of work or school were encouraged to sign up for “portable projects.”

This year’s projects varied from planting and landscaping to painting, scrubbing, building and even reading to young students.

While many of the tasks involved adults working at schools, in some cases, it was the students who volunteered. Among the groups participating were Trinity Montessori School, Pinewood Prep, Porter-Gaud, North Charleston High and University School of the Lowcountry.

“A lot of schools are engaging students in projects, which is just beautiful,” Burnett said. “Teaching the young people to give is sort of a way to pay it forward. It really is the whole community coming together.”

New to the event this year were several “Kick Back” after-parties at area restaurants, where volunteers were offered discounts and a chance to socialize.

“Part of the energy of this event is being able to come together afterward and talk about it, so that was a way for people to share their stories,” Burnett said.

Although Day of Caring is an annual event, Chris Kerrigan, president and CEO of Trident United Way, said, “We want to inspire caring year-round. That’s the motto of this year’s Day of Caring: This is day one of 365 days of caring.”

Burnett said the idea is to create partnerships between the volunteers and their recipients.

“We really want the volunteers to become engaged in the communities they are working in,” she said. “We want this to be a kickoff to a long-term relationship.”

The Lowcountry’s event is the largest per capita in the United States.

“No community in America has embraced this day of volunteering like ours has,” said Lisa Mitchell, president of Hagemeyer North America and chair of this year’s event. The result is a tremendous contribution to nonprofit organizations and the people they serve.”

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or