CHESHIRE — Inside the locker rooms of the Cheshire YMCA, volunteers from Thomaston Savings Bank were busy painting.

The work was part of the United Way of Greater Waterbury’s Day of Caring, a kickoff to its annual fundraising campaign that allows it to service programs in the communities of Bethlehem, Cheshire, Middlebury, Prospect, Southbury, Thomaston, Waterbury, Watertown, Wolcott and Woodbury.

It was a face-lift much needed for the facility — those walls hadn’t been painted in nearly 15 years — and was met with enthusiasm by YMCA employees and members, who had smiles on their faces when they saw what was happening.

Chrissy Cassesse, the executive director of the Cheshire YMCA branch, said they couldn’t afford the expense for that painting job after other projects took precedence.

“We recently did minor renovations in the front of our house and the fitness area,” Cassesse said. “When they called, we hadn’t been able to paint this, so it was awesome that we could get volunteers down here to help with this. The members are super excited. A fresh coat of paint makes everything feel better.”

This was one of many volunteer projects taking place that Thursday from the United Way of Greater Waterbury. In all, over 80 volunteers were spread out at different work sites to help do their part.

Inside the men’s locker room, Thomaston Savings Bank employees Mark Crook and Jim Forker — both commercial lenders — were putting the new coat of paint on the wall.

“It’s part of the bank’s mission,” Forker said. “We give back to the community.”

“Volunteering brings you to reality and you get to meet a lot of different people,” Crook said. “It cleans the soul.”

These volunteers, the United Way of Greater Waterbury said, is what makes their fundraising and work possible.

“Volunteers are everything to the organization,” said Jessica Carlino, the organization’s volunteer engagement coordinator. “It’s the reason why we’re able to do all the work we do in the community. The Day of Caring is really cool because it’s the opportunity to be engaged in the work we’re doing. We send out donors, people who are on committees, we are sending them out to agencies we work with. A landscaping project or painting a classroom, the things they are doing, means so much more because they are the hands-on support.”

Other volunteers at the YMCA that day included Amber Pinette, a financial adviser with Thomaston Savings Bank, and Becky Kayfus, who works in human resources with the bank in Thomaston.

“Time is one of the most important things you can give,” said Pinette, who is a Thomaston resident. “That’s what this is all about.”

“This is very fulfilling and people are very appreciative,” Kayfus said. “You learn a lot, too. You learn about what’s going on in the community.”

Kristen Jacoby, the president of the United Way of Greater Waterbury, said the Day of Caring and the rally that preceded it in the morning, are the kick off to a major way they financially support the more than 40 programs they offer.

“Fundraising is what allows us to do all this amazing work in our community,” Jacoby said. “We’re a community impact organization. We invest in education, financial stability and basic needs, which involves health. We are investing in human and financial capital.”

In the past, the fundraising campaigned has surpassed the $4 million mark. They hope to reach that total again.

“It’s the largest single community fundraising effort in our community,” Jacoby said. “The campaign signifies the starting gun to go off and to get the message out and get people to volunteer. I’m always completely overwhelmed by the amazing generosity from the community. I mean that straight from the heart. People step up and do the most amazing things.”

Some of that funding goes to food pantries, after school care, tax prep programs, housing assistance and more. But mostly, they want to fix broken systems.

“We talk about the outcomes we are achieving,” Jacoby said. “It’s not just about helping one individual, which we do, it’s about system change and looking at broader initiatives. It’s about the building blocks for a good life. A quality education can lead to a stable job and then you can provide for your family’s needs. How do we help the most people in our community?”

And precisely, they said, it’s all about the name of the campaign: Build the Bridge.

“When you get down to it, we’re about removing the obstacles that are holding people back,” said Glenn McCabe, the director of marketing and communications. “We want to get them to the other side to a better life by removing financial obstacles. It’s about the better tomorrow.”

Connecticut Media Group