It was a packed house at the DoubleTree Hotel before hundreds of volunteers headed out to work on United Way Day of Caring projects, which includes maintenance and repairs of nonprofit facilities.

United Way of North Central Massachusetts, which has hosted the annual event for the past 18 years, also uses the day to officially launch its annual campaign drive.

"We have 74 projects from 49 nonprofit organizations -- over 600 volunteers from local companies, as well as over 2,000 students participating in their own school-based projects," said Abbie MacCallum from Bemis Associates in Shirley. MacCallum is this year's United Way Day of Caring chairwoman.

MacCallum said the projects included helping schools, municipalities and nonprofits with yard work, painting and other initiatives. "These are projects that the organizations aren't able to complete, due to fiscal constraints or lack of manpower, so they look forward to this day.

"In addition to the volunteers, it is our Day of Caring sponsors who help make the day possible for the agencies. In particular, SimplexGrinnell has been an incredible partner and once again was our major sponsor this year," MacCallum said.

Several companies were praised for participating in the day-long event: SimplexGrinnell in Westminster sent 100 volunteers; Bemis Associates, Shirley, 40 employees; Alternatives Unlimited, Gardner, 29; Fitchburg's Simonds International, 20; Hannaford Supermarkets, 23; Albright Technologies, Leominster, 18; IC Federal Credit Union, 16; and Workers' Credit Union, 15, along with many other companies.


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Participating schools included: Ayer-Shirley Regional School District, Fitchburg State University, Leominster Public Schools and Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner.

Phil Richards, vice president of IC Federal Credit Union and this year's United Way volunteer campaign chairman, urged the community to help create a perpetual Day of Caring, by supporting United Way's annual campaign drive.

The annual fundraising effort for United Way Community Impact Fund supports more than 35 programs in the areas of health, education and income. This year, United Way of North Central Massachusetts will deliver over 120,000 services to people in the 19 communities it serves.

"By supporting the United Way Community Impact Fund, we can create more opportunities for a better life for all," said Richards. The local nonprofit raises its money through corporate donations, employee giving through workplace campaigns, and contributions directly from the community.

Following completion of the projects, participants attended a barbeque at the Polish American Citizens Club in Gardner. SimplexGrinnell and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel were the major sponsors for the United Way Day of Caring.