DANVILLE – Danville native son and NASAastronaut Joe Tanner will be on hand Saturday as the United Way of Danville Area hosts its first Day of Caring.
"The Day of Caring is a national United Way program," said Jeanne Mulvaney, president of the local organization. "It's something you can take and design it to fit the needs of your specific community."
"I'll probably entertain them and talk about a little space stuff," said Tanner, "and thank those people for caring about the people in their community by helping them through their United Way donations."
Tanner will be speaking at the annual, invitation-only, United Way Leadership Circle event on Friday, an evening to honor individuals and businesses who have reached certain levels of giving for last year's campaign.
"For the Day of Caring, we wanted to find activities that appealed to people or projects with not only a specific need, but also were important to Joe and to the project's chairmen Judy and her son Johnathan Myers," Mulvaney said.
The United Way is seeking volunteers to help Day of Caring activities, including painting at Your Family Resource Connection, cleaning trails at Kennekuk County Park and conducting health and safety checks for the homes of senior citizens.
"I hope to get out and trim some bushes and visit some seniors," Tanner said from his office in Houston on Tuesday. "I want to get around and visit the various projects that day."
The projects selected were designed to take in more than Danville, but not get too broad for the first event.
"This will kind of be a pilot program to see how things work," Mulvaney said. "We were trying to keep it focused, but if this works out, we'd like to expand into more areas in the county."
Volunteers are asked to meet at the CRIS Senior Center, 309 N. Franklin St., in the parking lot and bring painting and cleaning supplies. Activities will run from 7:30 a.m. to noon.
"We'll have a huge learning curve, but Danville is a volunteer- and donor-based community; we think it will be very successful," Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney took over the reins of the United Way just before last year's annual campaign and with co-chairs Pat O'Shaughnessy and John Shane has identified this year's challenges.
"There are always going to be challenges," Mulvaney said. "As businesses come and go, there are donations to be made up and new ones coming in. We've tried to be very organized."
Mulvaney said the brochure and video used to explain the needs and services of the 17 member agencies will be coordinated. The various divisions of the campaign will hold their own kickoff events, which will offer tips on how to approach potential donors, allow them to ask questions and talk them through the process.
"We hope we can reach many more businesses and we are ready to make presentations to businesses of any size, large or small," Mulvaney said. "They just have to tell us when."
The key is to tell the story of whom the United Way helps, who benefits directly through donations.
"Something someone didn't have a need for one day may well be something they or someone they know needs tomorrow," Mulvaney said. "We have the Community Information Line up and running and by just calling our office, a person can get a referral to assist with their needs."