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Day of Caring volunteers turned away from event

By Lisa Rich
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 8, 2004
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The UA Community Relations and Human Resources departments are turning down additional volunteers for tomorrow's fifth annual Day of Caring.

The event is intended to provide one day of service for the community, with help from volunteers and one local non-profit agency, said Holly Altman, UA community relations coordinator.

Originally asking for 100 student and faculty volunteers, the Day of Caring committee, a combination of the community relations and human resources departments, has accepted more than 250 people to repair and renovate nine homes near Manzo Elementary School, 855 N. Melrose Ave., Altman said.

The Day of Caring is a non-profit project for the two departments.

"It's beyond anything we've imagined," said Glory Novak, UA Human Resources director of finance. "We've had a huge response from students and faculty."

Andrew Barss, linguistics associate professor, and his wife Janet Nicol, psychology associate professor, are volunteering because they had been looking for a way to give directly back to the community.

"This is an ideal opportunity to do something that has a concrete payback," Barss said. "The Day of Caring gives us a chance to do work that helps someone; that has immediate results (and) that lets us use our acquired skills in a useful way."

Barss said he and his wife hope to be involved in the interior work of the homes, because he has skills in carpentry and electrical work, and his wife is skilled in painting and tiling.

Twenty percent of the 250 participants are students, more than any other year, Altman said.

"We needed both skilled and unskilled volunteers ... a lot of UA expertise can be applied," Novak said. "We have people of all different respects and levels working together."

Skilled laborers will be responsible for tasks such as roofing, plumbing and electrical wiring. Most of the homes being renovated belong to elderly or disabled residents, who will receive handicap facilities such as toilets and shower seats, Novak said.

Other volunteers will work on more simple chores, such as weeding, installing smoke alarms, patching/repairing walls and painting, Novak said.

The committee chose to work with Rebuilding Together Tucson, a non-profit organization that revitalizes houses and communities for low-income homeowners and families, because it can accommodate a large volunteer group.

Jocelyn Rechichar, RTT project coordinator, said when RTT was approached by the UA to work for Day of Caring, "there was no question about it."

"The university is such a huge resource of our community, and can provide a lot of people and resources that can further assist the community."

Homeowners who will benefit from Day of Caring were required to fill out an application and were then extensively evaluated by RTT. To qualify for low-income status, the homeowner's income had to be 80 percent below median income, Rechichar said.

Income varies across the nation, and usually depends on family size and location, Rechichar said.

Novak said neither taxpayer nor university money is funding the project, which she estimates to be more than $10,000 for items such as new roofing, coolers, paint, lumber and toilets.

"None of the UA budget is being used. They're behind us in spirit," Novak said.

During the last month, Novak and RTT have requested donations from local businesses and residents for supplies, money and other materials needed for the project.

Although only nine homes will be renovated, community members have been spreading the word about Day of Caring and asking for help with small tasks in their own homes, Novak said.

"The neighbors are so excited, they're asking for additional help," Novak said.

With a large volunteer group, Novak and Altman said that some volunteers will help neighbors with small jobs such as moving trash to dumpsters and yard work.

"It's an immediate way to help," Altman said. "We want to build a neighborhood community spirit and help the university get involved with the community."

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