Dozens of volunteers carried new mattresses into the House of Mercy Homeless Center in Janesville on Wednesday morning.

About 32 miles away in Stoughton, volunteers fed goats and picked apples with adults who have disabilities.

Both groups had the same goal: to make an impact on their community through United Way Blackhawk Region’s Day of Caring.

The Day of Caring launches the United Way’s annual fundraising campaign by sending hundreds of volunteers into Rock County and the stateline region to do volunteer projects.

The United Way announced Wednesday its 2019 fundraising goal is $2.4 million, the smallest goal since 2016.

The nonprofit’s 2018 goal was $2.6 million, which was reached thanks to a last-minute anonymous donation.

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In June, the United Way announced it would give $3.65 million to 30 nonprofits during its two-year funding cycle from July 2019 to June 2021. The entire 2019 campaign and portions of the 2018 and 2020 campaigns will feed the 2019-2021 cycle, according to a news release.

Board Chairman Al Hulick said in the news release that this year’s goal is a “bit of a stretch.”

“Despite some exciting economic development in our region, when local companies experience changes in ownership or executive leadership, continued support for United Way is not guaranteed,” Hulick said.

Hulick said competition from other community fundraisers is also a challenge.

More than 700 people volunteered for 44 nonprofit projects Wednesday, according to the release.

Tammie King-Johnson, manager of the House of Mercy, said she was thankful the homeless shelter was chosen as a Day of Caring recipient.

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Dana Lutton carries a mattress out of the House of Mercy Homeless Center while volunteering for United Way Blackhawk Region’s Day of Caring on Wednesday in Janesville. The Day of Caring kicked off United Way’s 2019 fundraising campaign.

A team from the Rock County Leadership Academy raised money to buy new bed frames, mattresses and vinyl mattress covers for the shelter, King-Johnson said.

Ashley HomeStore donated 20 additional mattresses, so all of the shelter’s 28 beds have new mattresses, King-Johnson said.

The shelter has not replaced its bed frames since it opened in 1996. The new frames will save the organization money and time.

Volunteers from RSM, a Janesville accounting firm, spent nearly six hours tearing down old wooden frames, building new frames, carrying mattresses and other tasks, King-Johnson said.

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Dana Lutton, front, and Julie Fiedler carry a rolled-up mattress donated by Ashley HomeStore on Wednesday while participating in the Day of Caring for the United Way Blackhawk Region in Janesville.

The vinyl mattress covers will extend the life of the mattresses to 20 years, King-Johnson said. The House of Mercy used to replace mattresses every two years.

Becky Sather, a recreational specialist at Community Connections adult day program, participated in her fifth Day of Caring on Wednesday.

Program staffers typically ask volunteers to help with indoor projects, but this year they chose to go outside and show the community the impact field trips can have on adults with disabilities, Sather said.

The program participants jumped, yelled, smiled and cheered as they fed goats at Eugster’s Farm in Stoughton. Volunteers from the United Way helped guide the group and helped those with mobility issues.

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Sam White carries an old mattress out of the House of Mercy Homeless Center as a volunteer for the United Way Blackhawk Region’s Day of Caring on Wednesday in Janesville. House of Mercy received money to buy new bed frames, mattresses and vinyl mattress covers for its shelter.

The program’s field trips are the only opportunity some participants have to go outside and socialize, Sather said.

“When anyone asks why we do what we do, it’s right here,” said David Abb of Community Connections as he watched the participants feed goats.

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