They painted, pressure washed, cleaned windows, shampooed carpets, spruced up landscapes, repaired gutters and more at four civic and social service facilities and tutored youngsters at three elementary schools.
Throughout Hernando County on Wednesday, 250 volunteers from 25 businesses and organizations bent their backs to help their neighbors during the annual Day of Caring sponsored by United Way of Hernando County.
Roberto Arroyo, 53, dipped a roller into a paint pan to refurbish the exterior of the Lighthouse for the Blind on California Street. Nearing the bottom of a wall, he paused. "Can't paint the flowers," he said.
Arroyo works in the seasonal department at Lowe's. "It's a fun place to work," he said. "This is fun, too. I get to see the happy faces afterward."
In front of the property, Carol McElroy, 47, of Hernando Beach, toiled with a crew from the Rotary Club of Spring Hill, weeding among the pavers of a walkway while others prepared to plant new shrubs and scatter mulch. McElroy said her family performs such work at home. "We are our own yard team."
The Rotary Club established the sensory garden at the Lighthouse in 2005, "so we have a special interest," McElroy said. The plantings were chosen for the sight-impaired, and enable them to feel interesting shapes. Also, the paver walkways are constructed at right angles, which the Lighthouse uses for cane-walk training.
Vikki Schornack, another volunteer with the Lowe's Hero Project, took a brief break from raking mulch to say that the company for which she is human resource manager maintains a budget for community services.
"The community has been very good to us,'' she said. "We always look for ways to give back."
Team members took vacation time from their jobs to work on the community project, she noted. And the company provided a free lunch to its volunteers.
At the Lighthouse, executive director Sylvia Perez ordered the dispensing of eyeglasses simulating various types of sight impairment. Larry Liverman of Floral City, who works in the paint department at Lowe's, Brooksville, and was painting the patio, donned a pair simulating cataracts. "Whoa!" he reacted. "I can't even see the lines."
Trying on a pair of macular degeneration simulators, he mused hesitantly, "That's better." He could see nothing central but did have peripheral vision.
"Don't step in the paint pan," cautioned an onlooker.
Switching to glasses imitating retinitis pigmintosa, a progressive disease of the eye retina, Liverman said, "This one's tolerable."
As she gathered in the activity of the volunteers and their comments, director Perez, guide dog in hand, said, "It's an amazing day. I'm just overwhelmed. How clean it's going to be. We'll have to have a party to show it off."
For icing on the cake, Pat Herrmann, representing the Kiwanis Club of the Nature Coast, presented a $250 check to the Lighthouse, proceeds from a circus the club sponsored earlier this year.
"I think we'll apply it to the children's program," said Perez. It serves youths from birth to age 6, about 30 currently enrolled.
Responded Herrmann, "That gives me goose bumps. Kiwanis is all about kids."
Beth N. Gray can be contacted at [email protected]