United Way’s Nancy Perry Day of Caring kicks off with Gov. Kelly, Nancy Perry

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 4:44 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Governor Laura Kelly and Nancy Perry helped kick off the United Way’s Nancy Perry Day of Caring.

The United Way of Greater Topeka says Governor Laura Kelly and retired United Way CEO Nancy Perry helped welcome a small and socially distanced in-person group as well as a live stream audience to its Nancy Perry Day of caring. It said the event was broadcast live on its Facebook page.

According to the organization, Perry ran United Way for 24 years and provided a historical perspective for the morning. It said the event was named after her. It said Perry noted that Topeka had persevered through crises in the past such as floods, tornados and even 9/11, but each time Kansas came through.

United Way said after Pery, Kelly was quick to praise her long time friend.

“I’ve known Nancy for decades,” Kelly said. “You are as enthusiastic now, as caring now and as inspirational now as you were then. The fact that we have this day is a true testament to who you are.”

Kelly said as a former UWGT board member, she knew the difference volunteering makes in a community. She said there is nothing more rewarding than serving others.

UWGT said the annual event is normally one of the biggest volunteer days in Topeka, which draws over 1,000 participants, often given time to volunteer by employers. It said with many still working from home and COVID-19 precautions, the majority of the volunteers were not available this year.

The organization said even if volunteers had ben available, social distancing and limited space meant indoor projects need to be smaller or thrown out.

According to UWGT, despite the restrictions, 355 volunteers signed up to handle 27 projects for 23 organizations, which represents more than 1,400 hours of volunteer labor. It said Day of Caring implemented a hybrid model for 2020 which offered individual at home or virtual opportunities as well as more traditional volunteering. It said the pandemic has forced many nonprofits to cancel crucial fundraisers in the past six months which means the help from volunteers was more valuable than usual this year.

“We recognized early on in COVID that our traditional big group volunteer projects probably weren’t going to be feasible this year,” said Jessica Barraclough, UWGT Director of Volunteer Engagement who worked with nonprofits across the community to find creative opportunities. “But we also know there has been a small but steady stream of volunteers who are still eager and able to safely be out in the community helping those who need it.”

UWGT said 2020 marked the start of a new Day of Caring tradition, the Ad Astra Honors. It said the Honors will include a variety of volunteer awards which began with the existing Marge Heeney Award honoring volunteers working directly with the United Way. It said a second award open to all community volunteers was also added.

Barraclough said the UWGT Volunteer Engagement Committee hoped to add more awards for the 2021 season.

According to UWGT, the marge Heene Award was given to Marlou Wegener who currently chairs its Community Impact Council.

“This individual has provided great leadership in guiding our council to make informed decisions," said Wegener’s nominator. "She is a considerate and organized volunteer and continually supports our work, and she does all this with a wonderful sense of humor.”

UWGT said the Ad Astra Award was given to Angela Dake who organized 1,000 Masks for Shawnee County, a grassroots group growing out of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barraclough said she introduced Dake by explaining the purpose of the award.

“Ad Astra Honors recognize those in our community who go above and beyond to serve others," said Barraclough. "They are the unsung heroes, rarely seeking recognition and often are happy working their magic out of the spotlight. This year’s nominee is no different.”

Barraclough said she also read an excerpt from Dake’s nomination. She said her nomination was a letter of support signed by over 20 people and four organizations.

“Angela saw a need for the people in our community to protect themselves and those around them. She thought of a creative solution… ‘If I can find 100 volunteers to sew 10 masks we would have 1,000 masks for Shawnee County.’ And so the group was born," said the letter. "She has spent countless hours organizing volunteers, supplies and best practices for those in need in our community. What was a dream of 1,000 masks to date has resulted in the creation of 27,282 masks and counting.”

According to UWGT the following are the 2020 Nancy Perry Day of Caring sponsors:

  • Platinum - Security Benefit
  • Gold - Capitol Federal, CoreFirst Bank and Trust
  • Silver - Evergy, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Stormont Vail, Washburn University
  • Bronze - Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas

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