From outside, the United Methodist Community Center on East Boardman Street looked empty at first Friday.
But around the corner, a group of people stood in front of the entryway, and inside about 40 others sat in chairs in the middle of a large room waiting to be called.
They were waiting on the work of eight volunteers from Paul Milligan & Associates, an accounting firm in Boardman, who since earlier in the morning feverishly had been packing 100 brown paper bags with canned goods, cereal, pasta, brownie mix and other food.
Beginning at 1 p.m., those who had poured into the center were able to take the food home for themselves or their families.
It was a regular day at the community center, which typically has similar giveaways on the third Thursday of each month, but thanks to the 15th annual United Way Day of Caring, the center’s patrons got a little extra help this month.
“Every little bit counts. Stuff like this really helps out,” said Alisa Toney of Youngstown who said she uses the center any way she can. “When you live on a fixed income, you need these kinds of services in the community.”
Those from Paul Milligan & Associates, who participated for the seventh year in a row, weren’t the only ones to lend a hand Friday. In all, more than 400 volunteers representing about 40 companies and organizations completed projects at about 30 agencies in the Mahoning Valley. The day started with a UW Day of Caring/2012 Campaign kickoff breakfast at the Covelli Centre. The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley will aim to raise $2.5 million in 2012.
Those proceeds will go toward myriad programs that UW helps to fund in the Valley, where one 1 of 4 people is served by the donated money.
“I believe firmly in the Valley,” said Paul Milligan, president of Paul Milligan & Associates. “Part of our practice is to give back to the community, and this is a good way to learn more about the place we live.”
Lisa Cochran, a payroll specialist at Paul Milligan & Associates, said packing the food bags was intense at times. The volunteers formed an assembly line early, after realizing that disorder wasn’t going to get the job done of unpacking the piles of food boxes that had been delivered from the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley.
In the end, Cochran and others felt good about their accomplishment, especially after they passed the bags out to those who planned for days to come and get them.
“I’m surprised to see how many people are in need,” Cochran said. “It bothers me to see this, but it feels good to help out.”
Juanita Pasley, the center’s executive director, said without the Day of Caring volunteers and others who volunteer on a daily basis, the wide range of services at the center would be impossible to provide.
“This is wonderful; we don’t have a lot of manpower here,” Pasley said. “We don’t usually pass out food at this time of month, and as you can see families will need it — some have been waiting for quite a while because they’re afraid they won’t get a bag if they don’t get here soon enough.”
The Day of Caring consists of hands-on projects, odd jobs and organizing activities. Projects typically range from painting and construction to cleaning or making repairs on homes, as well as assisting nonprofit agencies in their daily roles.