More than 300 volunteers stepped up across Hernando County on Wednesday to assist with the United Way's 20th annual Day of Caring. Giving up five hours at their jobs or from their home chores, the volunteers fanned out to 10 sites, painting, pressure-washing, clearing gutters, taming landscapes, replacing ceiling tiles, installing new screens and readying clothes to be given away — "whatever is needed," said United Way of Hernando County executive director Kathy Jones.
Most of the sites, all nonprofit organizations, were selected from the United Way's partner agencies — Jericho Road Ministries, the Arc Nature Coast and the Girl Scouts, for example.
"But if we can find other agencies, we're happy to help them, too," Jones said.
One such organization was My Career Closet, a 2-year-old shop in a plaza on Ayers Road, off S Broad Street on the north side of Masaryktown, that provides free business attire for women seeking to enter the workforce.
"So many people still don't know about us," said Patricia Nelson, a regular My Career Closet volunteer. Thus, the Day of Caring provided, at least via the eight United Way helpers, an opportunity to spread the word that the organization is willing and able to dress women readying for careers.
On Wednesday morning, the volunteers, including a group from the Times, pressed incoming donations, arranged them on hangers and sorted them by size.
"What they're doing would take two people eight-hour days to do," said Connie Cordell of My Career Closet's board of directors.
One helper effortlessly pressed a pleated, tunic-style shirt with a long-hosed steamer. The volunteer said she had a similar steamer at home, received as a gift long ago, but didn't know how to use it. Now she does.
The clothing, which comes out of donors' closets, enables the career-promoting group to fit a woman prepping for a job interview with a stylish business suit, shoes and a handbag, appropriately coordinated. When a woman lands a job, she is provided with mix-and-match wear to cover a five-day workweek.
Much of the attire is designer-label. Cordell showed off a Kasper linen-look shantung fuschia-colored suit that would have cost $150 new, as well as a Preston & York black and ecru suit estimated to sell for $250 new.
Sometimes, hair and makeup makeovers are added. Such was the case when volunteer Patricia Nelson, whose title is director of first impressions at the Day Law Office in Spring Hill, helped to fit a woman who had never worn a dress and never had anything on her feet but tennis shoes and flip-flops.
"The woman said, 'I've never had anybody make me beautiful before.' She actually cried," Nelson said.
"We're always looking for women to dress," said My Career Closet manager Jackie Campbell, "looking for donations of business clothing and volunteers. We always need volunteers."
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.