450 Volunteer for Pickaway County Community Action Day

Nearly 450 volunteers fanned out into Pickaway County on Thursday to participate in the 10th annual Community Action Day hosted by Ohio Christian University. Now dedicated to the memory of park volunteer Ralph C. Starkey, the event tackled more projects with more manpower than ever this year, according to Rev. Rick Christman, vice president of student affairs at OCU.

"We have 450 people doing 68 projects throughout the county," Christman said. "It's the most we've ever had, and we're excited about that." The turnout tops the record of 323 volunteers who completed 58 projects for 2009.

Students and staff from OCU recruited help from students at all four county high schools to participate in the projects, which ranged from clean-ups and repairs of private residences to ground maintenance on public property to painting projects at parks and churches throughout the area.

More than 100 high school students participated this year, according to Michele Lanman, director of the United Way of Pickaway County that helps organize the student involvement.

"Once these kids get involved and see the value of what they're doing, they come back and want to do more," Lanman said. "It's also neat to see these kids who don't even know each other come together for this all-important mutual goal and develop some relationships outside of their normal circles."

Community service as a whole has experienced an upsurge in recent years, she believes, and the increasing numbers for this annual event support that.

"I think people talk more about community service now than they ever have in the past," Lanman said. "Giving back to your community and your country, people are really talking about it and better yet getting in there and doing it."

The Ralph C. Starkey Community Action Day is one of two volunteer events involving the United Way each year. The agency also hosts the student-based Community Care Day each September in conjunction with other central Ohio United Way agencies.

by Trish Bennett of the Circleville Herald