PITTSBURG — Last Friday, Wesley House’s front yard became Rhonda Wooley’s office for the day.

Along with seven of her coworkers, the human resource director of Backyard Discovery, a Pittsburg-based wooden swing set manufacturer, she put on gardening gloves to pull weeds, lay down new mulch and paint a swingset for the nonprofit agency with a mission of helping the underserved.

“This is really outside the realm of what we do in our daily routine,” Wooley said. “We have an office setting for the most part, so this just gets outside.
“It gets us more involved. It’s also good teamwork and comradery for our company.”

Wooley was just one of 230 volunteers from local businesses who participated in United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas’s annual Day of Action — the largest one-day, community-wide volunteer day of service in Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas, according to the event’s news release.

The volunteers completed 32 projects for 19 nonprofit agencies in Kansas and Missouri, according to United Way’s media release. In Southeast Kansas, these agencies included the Family Resource Center, Pittsburg Community Child Care Learning Center, Pittsburg Family YMCA, Pittsburg Parks and Recreation Department, Safehouse Crisis Center, Salvation Army, Wesley House and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Crawford County.

“United Way has great relationships with corporations and employees throughout the community and this is our way of partnering them up with those agencies and things that are needed in the community,” said Duane Dreiling, Executive Director of United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas. “Really, it becomes a day of service.”  

From landscaping and doing yard work to stuffing envelopes, the volunteers completed a number of different tasks.

At Salvation Army, store manager and volunteer coordinator Michael Kershner had volunteers from Jones Heritage Realtors, the Crawford County Health Department and Millers Professional Imaging sort and hang clothes for the thrift store.

“To me, it’s the opportunity to get a larger product done or to get a bunch of the little projects,” Kershner said. “You have those things on your list that always seem to fall to the bottom as other things take importance, and it’s a good day to get all those little things done that you’ve been waiting to do until you have that opportunity when you have a group this size.”

Crawford County Health Department Administrative Assistant Breanna Rhuems, who volunteered at the thrift store, said her three years of participating in United Way’s Day of Action have taught her the value of giving back to her community.

“[My favorite part is] just knowing that I’m helping the community — putting my time in to help others and trying to make a difference and make Pittsburg a better place,” Rhuems said. “It’s good to get out and get a break from being stuck in the office all the time. It’s fun to interact and get out in the community.”

Manual labor, however, was not the only way local business workers volunteered throughout the day.

GNBank hosted a food drive and Names and Numbers hosted a feminine hygiene drive for Wesley House. Midwest Minerals also donated a load of gravel to help with the landscaping around Wesley House.

“It’s exciting that the employees want to come out and help us and then, inadvertently, it helps us in the marketing aspect because they learn about Wesley House and so you don’t know how that might affect them or what they might bring to us in the future,” Wesley House Executive Director Marcee Binder said. “What I think is so cool about this project is that everybody can do something; it’s not all manual labor.”  

United Way’s Day of Action is occurs all across the United States on and around June 21, according to United Way’s official website. Dreiling said the United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas has been doing the Day of Action locally for at least 25 years.

“It gives our business partners an opportunity to see firsthand what the agencies are doing that they don’t already know,” said Bob Burk, United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas Director of Resource Development and Community Engagement. “It also allows them to put in some elbow grease and some hard work and help out the agencies instead of monetarily.”

For Wooley, volunteering during the Day of Action was a learning opportunity that taught her just that.

“I think honestly, when we got here, we learned about what the Wesley House does,” Wooley said. “I like to learn what their gaps are, what they’re still needing, what are areas that they struggle with and if there’s some sort of way we can help them.”