More than 800 people volunteered to help local non-profits as part of the United Way of Fort Smith Day of Caring on Tuesday, April 18.

As part of the Day of Caring each year, people from local businesses and organizations volunteer their time to help maintain area non-profit agencies.

One of those agencies, the Boys and Girls Club of the Alma Area, got help from volunteers with painting its reading room and a hallway.

Elaina Damante, Boys and Girls Club of the Alma Area director, called the Day of Caring a “huge blessing.”

“It means a lot to the children because they know the people in the community care about them when they come in and are surprised by all the work that’s been done,” Damante said.

Help with maintenance of the Alma Club also boosts staff morale, Damante said, because it’s difficult for them to accomplish all that needs to be done on their own.

This was the third year for Angel Appleton with Arvest Bank to take part in the Day of Caring. It was the second year she helped paint at the Alma Club, she said.

“I love volunteering; I do volunteer events all the time,” Appleton said. “I like being in a community (and) helping in the community.”

Appleton, who is from Alma, attended the Alma Club when she was a child, she said.

“It’s good to give back to an organization that gave to me when I was a kid,” Appleton said. “It’s an important place and for a lot of kids, it’s a second home.”

Also helping paint at the Alma Club on the Day of Caring were Brandie Wingfield with Arvest in Alma, Gene Lech with Golden Living in Fort Smith and his son Michael Lech.

Day of Caring began with a kick-off breakfast at Harry E. Kelley Riverfront Park in Fort Smith and the Jeral L. Hampton Meeting Place in Booneville.

Speakers included United Way of Fort Smith Area Board Chairman Les Smith with Arvest Bank and Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders.

After the breakfast, volunteers headed out to their project sites to assist with hands-on projects that included painting, cleaning, landscaping and visiting with the elderly.

There were 91 projects with more than 800 volunteers for the 2017 Day of Caring, said Eddie Lee Herndon, United Way of Fort Smith Area president.

Projects were available in Alma, Barling, Booneville, Charleston, Fort Smith, Greenwood, Lavaca, Mansfield, Mulberry, Ozark, Paris, Poteau, Sallisaw and Van Buren.

At last year’s event volunteers worked an estimated 3,000 hours with a savings to nonprofit agencies of more than $67,500 in a single day, Herndon said.