Giving back on the Day of Caring

Kishwaukee United Way

About 270 volunteers tackled dozens of projects in the Kishwaukee United Way's Day of Caring on June 20. Visit to donate online to the Kishwaukee United Way or to see their list of partner agencies. You will also find information on how to volunteer.

You can also donate by mailing a check to P.O. Box 311, 115 N. First St., DeKalb, IL 60115.


DeKalb Area Retirement Center-Oak Crest


DeKALB – Four volunteers, including 5-year-old Jordan Schrader, vacuumed and washed the cars of 15 seniors residing at Oak Crest Retirement Center. Northern Illinois University student Kayla Simmons chose the project "because it seemed like a good thing to do."


Oak Crest community events coordinator Joan Launer said 270 people live at the faith-based, not-for-profit community for people 62 and older, which was founded in 1980.


"We are very appreciative," said resident Sally Stevens, who has lived at Oak Crest for 21 years.

– Doug Oleson


Neighborhood Watch


DeKALB – Frank DiNatale and his teenage daughters, Madeline, 15, and Jackie, 13, painted over graffiti on the garage of Don Johnson for the Neighborhood Watch Group in eastern DeKalb.


"This was just something I knew needed to be done," Neighborhood Watch Group volunteer Peggy LeMieux said, noting the group just formed in May and is still in the planning stage. She said it will primarily watch the Fifth and Sixth street neighborhood. "We're just trying to keep the neighborhood safe."


Johnson said he scrubbed the graffiti off five years ago, but someone repainted it.

– Doug Oleson


DeKalb Area Women's Center


DeKALB – Weeding and fixing signs were among the tasks at the DeKalb Area Women's Center. There were 28 volunteers, many of them members of Bill Cho's United Taekwondo in Sycamore and the Kishwaukee Women's Network.


"We are able to do this and we like to help," volunteer Ann Janecek said.


In promoting women's culture, the nonprofit DAWC addresses a variety of issues important to women through programs, displays, lectures and other means.

– Doug Oleson


Meals on Wheels


Ten volunteers drove their own cars to deliver meals for Meals on Wheels, which delivers 280 meals a day, five days a week, to seniors and disabled individuals throughout DeKalb County. Six other volunteers helped clean up.


"It only takes a few minutes and it helps a lot of people," volunteer Tana Knetsch said.


"It's a good thing to do," fellow volunteer Babs Knoch said, adding that she's volunteered at least three years.


Meals on Wheels, which has been part of the Voluntary Action Center since 1987, served 56,802 meals in 2008, all of which are prepared by a registered dietitian. Pick up locations are in Sycamore, Sandwich and Genoa.

– Doug Oleson


Voluntary Action Center


DeKALB – Nancy Hicks, senior luncheon program director for the Voluntary Action Center, could not serve community meals without the help of volunteers.


"I do get calls from different groups, and then I have a group of steadfast volunteers," Hicks said. VAC serves meals on the first, third and fifth Wednesday of every month to anyone in the community, regardless of ability to pay. On June 19, about seven Day of Caring volunteers prepared and served meals to 78 diners at the DeKalb Senior Center at 330 Grove St. in DeKalb.


"It's an economic need, a socialization need and sometimes it's even a nutritional need," Hicks said.

– Curtis Clegg


Family Service Agency


DeKALB – Elise Podschweit, 12, of DeKalb has the right idea about volunteering.


"It's like karma: what goes around comes around," Elise said as she painted a cutout that will be used by the Children's Advocacy Center to raise awareness about child abuse.


"We want to give children a safe place to talk about what may have happened to them," said Holly Peifer, director of the Children's Advocacy Center, which is part of the Family Service Agency.


Elise was one of four volunteers to paint the cutouts.


"Being a nonprofit and always relying on funding from others, it's awesome to have people volunteer to do things that need to be done," Peifer said.

– Curtis Clegg


Opportunity House


SYCAMORE – Xochitl Orozco drove to DeKalb County from Peoria to participate in the Day of Caring.

"Our manager is from DeKalb, so we came here with her," Orozco said. U.S. Cellular was one of eight businesses that organized groups of employees to volunteer around the community.


Orozco and her co-workers stained a wheelchair ramp at Opportunity House in Sycamore, which is dedicated to "improving the quality of life for children, families and adults who face various obstacles to independent living," according to its website.


"We have sort of a priority list of different needs we have here around Opportunity House. In order to provide the best services for our clients, we rely on volunteers to save money," program director Diana Hulst said.


Hulst said that several Opportunity House staff members volunteered at other sites in the community on the Day of Caring.

– Curtis Clegg


Pay-It-Forward House


SYCAMORE – Cassandra Roach brought her son along to volunteer.


"This is my fifth year and it is my son's first. It's a good way to get him into volunteering," Roach said. She and her son, Daniel Gudino, 11, washed windows at Pay-it-Forward House, which provides lodging, physical and emotional rest to out-of-town guests who are visiting hospitalized patients in DeKalb County.


While Roach and Daniel washed windows, other Day of Caring volunteers washed and folded laundry. Since Pay-it-Forward House is essentially a bed-and-breakfast, the work load is constant.


"Groups contact us to see if we need anything done and it's rare we don't have anything to do," said Pay-it-Forward House volunteer Dixie Zander, who organizes volunteers throughout the year.

– Curtis Clegg


Sycamore History Museum


SYCAMORE – The gardens at the Sycamore History Museum, like any garden, require regular maintenance.


"With the garden stuff there are always ongoing projects that require a lot of people," executive director Michelle Donahoe said.


Ron Johnson, Master Gardener with the University of Illinois Extension, oversaw a group of volunteers that worked in the flower gardens and the kitchen garden at the museum. The volunteers weeded, tilled and applied mulch.


"We are here with Kohl's," said Tracey Lynch of Kingston as she and co-worker Brittany Musgrave of DeKalb applied mulch to a flower bed in front of the museum's main building. Five Kohl's employees participated in this year's Day of Caring.

- Curtis Clegg


Other projects

In addition to the projects above, Day of Caring volunteers assisted at the following local agencies:

  • 4-C: Community Coordinated Child Care (moving boxes and furniture)
  • Adult Day Care (painting)
  • American Red Cross (blood drive, distribute fire safety doorhangers)
  • CLC/Growing Place (spreading mulch and sand on a playground)
  • Creston Library (stain wheelchair ramp)
  • DeKalb County Community Gardens (gardening)
  • DeKalb Housing Authority (teaching computer basics)
  • DeKalb Senior Center (cleaning)
  • Glidden Homestead (shelf installation, moving boxes, computer help)
  • Shabbona State Park (trail clearing)
  • The Church in DeKalb (yard work, painting)
  • United Way (making thank-you calls)
  • VAC (grounds cleanup)
  • YMCA (campsite improvements, landscaping, painting, day camp help)
  • Adventure Works (create new client file folders)
  • Family Service Agency (painting)
  • RAMP (move furniture and air conditioner)
  • Sycamore Child Care (assemble shed, cold-patch parking lot potholes)
  • Midwest Museum of Natural History (prep Rockin for the Reptiles fundraiser materials, clean and paint tortoise pen)
  • DeKalb Senior Center (lunch, Bingo)
  • Heritage Woods (washing bus, washing windows)
  • Sycamore Library (Pampered Parents: reading and activities with kids)
  • DeKalb County Hospice (delivering cookies)
Loading more