OTTUMWA — Food insecurity, inadequate heat in winter, lack of school supplies and other issues are a sad reality in Wapello County. United Way of Wapello County believes it doesn’t have to be if more volunteers can step up and help change these issues.

United Way of Wapello County is preparing for it’s 14th annual United Way Day of Caring and hopes to meet its goal of 200 volunteers.

“It’s a pretty long tradition to come together and meet the needs and bring people together,” Community Engagement Director Emma Kain said.

This is Kain’s first year of coordinating the event and second year participating. For her, the pressure for her is on, but in a good way.

“I’m wanting to make sure I’m dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s,” Kain said. “This day has a lot of moving parts; I’m wanting to make sure I’m covering all the basics. My goal is to make it as successful as it has been in the past and that people have a really good experience so we can interact and get them involved.”

Although Kain is new to coordinating the event, she’s already seen more volunteers step up.

“The event’s growing every year; we’re getting more volunteers every year, which is always really exciting to see,” she said. “Something that has happened over the past few years is getting more of the younger people involved.”

This growing involves some changes and similarities to other United Way of Caring days. Kain said Cardinal students will come to volunteer, and United Way is working with OHS students to provide volunteer opportunities. Kain also said there’s a new project for volunteers.

“The new project, which hasn’t happened in the past, is working together with the Pickwick Center,” she said. “That’s an exciting new partnership. We are excited to see that project happen and continue to have them involved in years to come. Folks volunteering there will be interacting with the children, doing activities, reading and working on cleanup projects. We are just wanting to give them extra help so they can continue their really great work.”

Kain said volunteers can look forward to pursuing projects such as working in the community gardens to child care as they volunteer with Tenco, Sieda, Pickwick and others.

When volunteers come to the Quincy Mall at 8 a.m. Sept. 11, they can expect a free pancake breakfast and a welcome speech. “We’ll give a rallying kickoff speech about how excited we are for them to be there and help in this initiative,” Kain said, “then they’ll pick up a sack lunch to do really great work.”

As residents sign up for volunteer opportunities, she hopes many of them will be inspired to continue to volunteering.

“Volunteering increases job opportunities and increases positive health outcomes,” Kain said. “I could go into that, but what I think it really comes down to is — we live here and we live here for a reason because we believe that the community is great, but just like in any community we have challenges. Projects agencies have identified these as actual needs they need met in order to continue the great work they are doing. As United Way, we want to a part of that solution and bring the caring power to that solution to the community and affect change and live more sustainable lives.”

Interested volunteers have until Monday, Sept. 9, to sign up for a United Way of Caring project. You can sign up for a project by visiting {span} TODAY or calling Emma Kain at 641-682-1264 ext.18 or emailing her at{/span}

— Chiara Romero can be reached at


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