By Sean Barron
Shelly LaBerto enjoys assisting with several events each year on behalf of the local Easter Seals, even if it means keeping a stubborn bed of ivy under control.
“It was a happy surprise that I ended up at Easter Seals,” the Boardman woman said. “I wanted to help clean up some part of the city.”
To that end, LaBerto was one of several volunteers with the Youngstown State University Alumni Society who took part in Friday’s 14th annual United Way Day of Caring.
Nearly 500 volunteers with more than 40 companies fanned out across the Mahoning Valley to perform community projects for about 35 nonprofit organizations.
Work included light landscaping, painting, gardening, reading to children, cleaning, sorting merchandise, packing food bags and assisting at a nursing home.
The YSU Alumni Society sent about 12 volunteers to spruce up a playground and work with youngsters attending a summer camp at Easter Seals, 299 Edwards St.
The event, sponsored by Covelli Enterprises Inc., is a communitywide day of hands-on volunteer efforts throughout the Valley, organizers said.
“I love to volunteer; it’s a worthwhile event,“ said LaBerto, who spent part of the morning raking the remains of overgrown ivy others had pruned in an area adjacent to a playground.
The 1985 Boardman High School graduate said she returned to the area 16 years ago from the East Coast mainly because of family and the area’s community spirit.
That spirit also motivates Roxy Gurlea of Canfield to reach out to the community, something she’s done on behalf of the local United Way agency for about 20 years.
Gurlea said she appreciates giving her time to the UW partly because the agency has strict screening measures and transparency regarding charitable donations.
“The funding process has a lot of accountability built into it,” added Gurlea, who played with several 3-year-olds in Missy Christy’s classroom.
Also on hand was Christy’s aide, Amanda Auriemma.
Other volunteers read to and worked on letters of the alphabet with 4- and 5-year-olds in the classroom of Pamela Rainey, a 15-year Easter Seals teacher who, along with her aide, Mary Cominsky, was preparing her room for the regular school year.
The scene at Goodwill Industries, 2747 Belmont Ave., was a bit more tranquil. There, several volunteers with National College of Youngstown and the Junior Group of Goodwill sorted, cleaned and priced jewelry to be sold March 3 at Stambaugh Auditorium during an auction that is Goodwill’s largest fundraiser.
“I wanted to volunteer and give back after teaching,” said Sue Stingel of Champion, who joined the junior group last year after 36 years of teaching health and physical education at Lordstown Elementary School.
Also working with the jewelry was fellow member Barb Metzendorf, whose sister Kathy Gerberry encouraged both women to take part in the Day of Caring event. Gerberry is the group’s president and sister of state Rep. Ron Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th.
Metzendorf, who recently retired after 35 years as a special-education teacher in the Warren schools, said she comes to Goodwill each Wednesday to sort and price donated items.
Several volunteers expressed the hope that the Day of Caring will call attention to the need for volunteerism in the Valley.