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 Volunteers throughout a three-county area heard the same message Friday. “Change doesn’t happen on its own."

Indeed, that promotional video kicked off the United Way’s Day of Caring on Friday throughout Porter, Lake, and LaPorte counties.

As Kim Olesker, president/CEO of United Way of Porter County, put it, “On this day we can change so many lives.”

The annual event unites local nonprofits with area businesses, civic organizations and faith-based groups. The 2018 Day of Caring drew 1,101 volunteers, helping 43 nonprofits complete 79 projects.

“We’re here for a purpose,” said Maddie Grimm, director of United Way of Porter County’s AmeriCorps program. “We are here as a team, fighting with you for stable and thriving families, workforce and community.”

While much of the volunteer work was done Friday, additional work was scheduled for later dates, such as landscaping at the Portage Township YMCA.

In Lake County for the second straight year, the Lake Area United Way revised the Day of Caring model to Unity in Our Community Week, running Aug. 6-10.

Megan Sikes, community engagement manager for LAUW, said the weeklong observance provides a greater opportunity for more people and more groups to connect with a nonprofit needing help.

The longer effort, Sikes said, “does not confine it to one day. It gives volunteers more options.”

Sikes and LAUW staff and volunteers from Campagna Academy in Schererville and Merrillville High School’s STAND (Socially Together and Naturally Diverse) group were working Friday at Avalon Manor in Hobart, preparing for the next day’s PackaPalooza.

Sikes estimated 315 volunteers would be preparing more than 100,000 apple-cinnamon oatmeal packets for future distribution among area food pantries.

Angelica Cabello, 17, a STAND leader, said she enjoys “just helping people and knowing they will get the help they need.”

At Neighbors’ Educational Opportunities (NEO) in Portage, volunteers worked indoors and outdoors on landscaping, washing and painting walls, office work and laying carpet.

Shawn Massa, owner of Golden Technologies in Valparaiso, brought her staff to help at NEO. “It really gives you an insight into what nonprofits need,” she said. “It can be pretty overwhelming, but at the end of the day, you feel pretty good.”

At the St. Agnes Adult Day Service Center in Valparaiso, volunteers from Andrean High School, Peoples Bank and Valparaiso Noon Kiwanis pulled weeds, grilled burgers and interacted with clients.

Kiwanian Jim Martz commented, “It makes you feel good to help. It’s all the little stuff that needs to get done.”

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Community Coordinator

Annette is Community Coordinator for The Times. She has been with the paper for two decades. A resident of Hobart, she graduated from Purdue University with degrees in English and German.