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Photos by Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Turnstone teacher Lance Miller and Park Center employee Deborah Stewart help Scarlett Capps, 4, during a carnival Thursday at Turnstone Center for the Disabled, part of the United Way Day of Caring.

Giving back for Day of Caring

Teams gather to help those in need

Volunteers Angie Benjamin, left, with daughters Evelyn, 2, Rylee, 9, and Ellie, 6, with Gabriel Gabriel work together on the landscaping at Study Elementary School.
Turnstone's Kimbrough Early Learning Center student Jaysha Bennett, 3, checks out her face painting from Park Center employee Carol Vinnedge.
Study Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Vincent Serrani, left, NIPSCO employees Dwight Wagner, middle, and Felipe "Sauce" Saucedo, right, work together to spruce up the grounds.

Carson Feichter, 4, readied himself for a bean bag toss Thursday as volunteers counted to three.

He hurled a green beanbag right into the hole on his first try. And then he did it again, with the same amount of ferocious strength.

"Yeah!" he yelled, as volunteers jumped up and down and gave him high-fives.

Volunteers from Park Center turned the gym at Turnstone Center for the Disabled into a carnival Thursday, setting up stations where adults and children could ride on scooters, have their faces painted and more.

They made up one of 60 teams that participated in United Way's annual Day of Caring. The event, in its 20th year, sends volunteers throughout the area to schools, nonprofits and private residences and other places that could use some free help.

Park Center employee Jacqueline Lacy, who manned the bean bag toss at Turnstone's carnival, said she was thrilled to be part of the day.

"It's great to give back to the community," she said. "They bring joy to our faces just as we do to theirs."

This year, about 1,100 people participated in the event, braving high temperatures to paint, landscape, clean and do whatever else was needed at 75 locations throughout the region.

Aside from working on team-building skills, United Way officials say the day helps get volunteers excited about what's going on in the community.

"It's a good opportunity to get out of the office and participate in what's going on at a school or day care center," said United Way CEO Todd Stephenson.

"People get to see what's going on, and they get to see the good work that these groups do."

NIPSCO was the signature sponsor for the day's event, which included participation from Vera Bradley, Do it Best, GE and dozens of other groups.

Over at Study Elementary on Brooklyn Avenue, volunteers from NIPSCO spent the day spreading mulch, painting buildings and sprucing up a playground painting of the United States.

It was the third year the company had chosen to work with the school, which is located near the company office.

"It's kind of a neighborly thing to do," said Dwight Wagner, a NIPSCO service supervisor who was busy transporting mulch in a wheelbarrow. "My mom went to Study, so I also do it in honor of her. … At the end of the day, you feel like you accomplished something. You feel good."

Dianne Kneller, a reading interventionist at Study, said the work meant a great deal to the school's staff, students and parents.

"It helps make this place a community where people want to come to," she said. "People drive by and say, 'Wow, that's a beautiful building.' But that's not just us doing it, it's everybody."