By: Andrew Martin

Douglas Kershaw, left, has worked for Tyson Foods for a little more than four months. David Honeycutt, right, has 24 years at Tyson Foods. This was their first time volunteering with the United Way’s annual Day of Caring.

About 1,200 volunteers woke up early on Saturday morning to give back to their community in the United Way’s 25th annual Day of Caring event.

Armed with shears, rakes, leaf blowers and a number of other yard tools, the small army of volunteers spread out to about 138 sites throughout the county to help those who are unable to do the manual labor themselves.

While Day of Caring events are held through all of the central Carolina region, Union County often has the highest turnout of volunteers.

Small teams were deployed throughout the area to cover the work sites. A small team from Tyson Foods volunteered to help Frances Marshall, 83, at her home in Monroe.

Marshall said the Day of Caring has been nothing short of a blessing to her. She is no longer able to get down on her hands and knees to do the dirty work of maintaining her front, side and rear gardens, she said. Naturally, despite her inability to work in the yards, the plants continue to grow and the branches continue to pile up, she added.

Day of Caring is one of only a few times a year the yard receives any maintenance, Marshall said.

“It means so much to me that these men and women would come out early on a Saturday morning to work on my home,” Marshall said. “I’m a senior citizen, so it’s too tiring and expensive for me to do all the work myself.”

The Tyson Foods team that worked in Marshall’s yard was led by Karla Carrodeguas, team captain for the day and HR Manager at Tyson Foods. Like the rest of her five-person team, this was her first year participating in the annual Day of Caring.

Participation this year gave her a chance to become more involved with the community, as well as improve the relationship between Tyson Foods and the surrounding community, she said.

Carrodeguas has been with Tyson Foods for 11 months. Opposite of her was David Honeycutt, who has been with the company for 24 years. Honeycutt said he volunteered this year simply to give back to the community he has been a part of for many years.

Earl Malloy echoed Honeycutt’s words, volunteering for the first time after a little more than five years with Tyson Foods. Douglas Kershaw, an employee for about four months, volunteered to help fill the small group size.

Regardless of their yard care experience, the group quickly picked up their respective tools and got to work on trimming plants, raking fallen branches, sweeping the driveway and cleaning the windows of Marshall’s home. When the work was finished, the change was as drastic as night and day, with the garden surrounding the home looking good as new.

“I’m so proud of my community that people would come out and do all this work for someone they don’t know,” Marshall said. “I look forward to this day every year.”

Marshall skipped out on the Day of Caring last year, but she previously signed up as a volunteer three or four times. It makes a world of difference every time, she said.

Ivy Allen, Union County Director for United Way, said the annual Day of Caring is the highlight of her year.

“It makes me so proud to see all these people giving up their day off to go out and help people around the county,” Allen said. “And it’s not just that they volunteer their time, they’re proud to serve and they love their community, and they want to give back however they can.”

Allen said the 25-year milestone is an important year. It shows that we have a dedicated group of people, a group that grows each year, that makes it their mission to help those who need it the most, she said.

“It shows the type of community we have here in Union County,” Allen said. “If there’s someone with a need, the people will react to help however they can.’

Allen said anyone is free to come and out and help in future Day of Caring events. Everyone is welcome, regardless of how much or little experience you have with yard or repair work. All that matters is the desire to help, she said.

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