Dana Lutton carries a mattress out of the House of Mercy Homeless Center in Janesville while volunteering for United Way Blackhawk Region’s 2019 Day of Caring. The United Way held its 2021 Day of Caring at locations across Rock County on Wednesday.


Karmen Payne-Mancil, the shelter coordinator for DEFY Domestic Abuse Beloit, always circles the United Way Blackhawk Region’s Day of Caring on her calendar.

That’s because she gets a team of United Way volunteers to help around the shelter.

“I live for this day,” she said, adding the extra sets of hands are always needed and appreciated when she does maintenance for the shelter in addition to supervising 11 shelter advocates. Fortunately, she said community volunteers always step up to help DEFY, especially on the Day of Caring.

The team at DEFY was from First National Bank and Trust and was tasked with spreading gravel underneath the shelter’s new playground equipment, cleaning up the outdoor area, adding a handrail, painting and making other minor repairs.

“They are getting right to it. I’d give them an A+,” Payne-Mancil said.

She said the outdoor area is important for kids because it gives them a place to burn off their energy and it gives their family members a nice place to watch them play outside. Payne-Mancil also said First National had a second team assisting on the Day of Caring, as well.

Volunteers descended upon sites across Rock County in full force after the United Way Blackhawk Region kicked off its annual capital campaign Wednesday.

Fifty teams of nearly 350 volunteers were assigned to 61 community service projects at 36 nonprofit agencies or community organizations.

One mighty group from Ecolab of Roscoe, Illinois, was helping out on a variety of tasks at the Beloit Historical Society.

BHS Executive Director Donna Langford said the team was cleaning up overgrowth along a fence line and tackling garage and storage facility cleanup and organization.

Other historical items such as a Beloit Daily News go-kart were being assessed for placement in a secure location. The go-kart was being put in a trailer to ensure it wouldn’t get bumped.

“It’s nice to give back to the community,” said Mark Loberg of Ecolab.

Volunteers from Ecolab participate in the Day of Caring each year. The volunteers said it’s a coveted role, joking there was a raffle and some arm wrestling involved to be selected for the big day.

BHS was hosting its first big tour—a Wednesday Walks event—as it hosted its first big group of Day of Caring volunteers outside since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Langford said everyone was adhering to social distancing recommendations and that the duties assigned to volunteers were chosen to be outside for safety reasons.

Pandemic safety measures during the Day of Caring included prioritizing outdoor projects, recommending personal protective equipment and social distancing for indoor projects, requiring sign-in sheets for any potential contact tracing, and careful scrutiny of projects that might affect vulnerable populations, according to the United Way

Other groups that received volunteers on site included the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville, the city of Janesville, Community Action Inc. in Beloit, Edgerton Community Outreach, Friends of the Welty Environmental Center in Beloit, KANDU Industries in Janesville, the Milton Public Library and the Stateline Boys & Girls Club in South Beloit, Illinois.

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