More than 900 people in bright orange shirts roamed through Rock County on Wednesday.
They had a purpose: doing good works as volunteers with the United Way Blackhawk Region’s Day of Caring, a kickoff event for the nonprofit’s annual fundraising campaign.
The local United Way announced this year’s $2.6 million fundraising goal during a breakfast event at the Eclipse Center in Beloit. That amount is slightly higher than last year’s $2.5 million goal.
The nonprofit actually raised $2.52 million in 2017, exceeding its goal by $20,000, said Mary Fanning-Penny, president of the United Way Blackhawk Region, in an email to The Gazette.
In 2016, the organization surpassed its fundraising goal for the first time since 2008, according to a previous Gazette story.
Wednesday, volunteers completed half- or full-day projects at nonprofits across Rock County and northern Winnebago County in Illinois in tandem with the campaign kickoff.
This year saw record participation with 916 volunteers from 34 companies completing projects for 44 local nonprofits, according to a news release.
Volunteers from the Janesville Public Works Department and Ecolab built a new playground for the Janesville Community Day Care Center.
Theresa Marshall, the center’s executive director, said the former playground was 20 years old and had fallen into disrepair.
The day care center spent $50,000 on playground equipment and rubber playground surfacing, Marshall said. Letting volunteers install the equipment saved the daycare tens of thousands of dollars.
“I would never be able to do this project without them,” Marshall said.
The new playground will feature more slides, a larger play area, a new sandbox and structures for kids to climb on.
The playground is expected to be ready for kids by Tuesday, Marshall said.
Paul Woodard, public works director for the city, said he has volunteered at the Day of Caring for the last four years because he wants to give back to the community.
The event brings together public works employees who don’t often interact with each other, he said, which makes for a good team-building exercise.
Each year, the United Way chooses “campaign champions” to advocate for the organization. New this year, the organization chose champions to represent each of its three impact areas: health, education and financial stability.
Campaign champions for 2018 include:
Health: Regina Dunkin, community relations and volunteer coordinator for the Beloit Health System.
Education: Steve Pophal, Janesville School District superintendent.
Financial stability: Marc Perry, director of planning and development for Community Action of Rock and Walworth Counties.