Grasping a shovel, Dillon Smith of Deere & Co., Moline, jammed the blade under a stubborn stand of weeds growing in a raised vegetable bed at the Skip-A-Long day care center in Rock Island.
At Family Resources Center in Davenport, Andrea Nitzel, of Wells Fargo mortgage services, Davenport, swept a paint roller across a concrete block wall, leaving a fresh coat of white in a dorm room.
And at the Hand-in-Hand Center in Bettendorf, Debby Schaller, of the American Rental Association, Moline, sat cross-legged on the floor with a preschooler in her lap, helping to build a Lego structure.
Smith, Nitzel and Schaller were three of the 2,400 volunteers who participated Thursday in the annual Community Day of Caring event sponsored by United Way of the Quad-Cities Area.
The program gathers volunteers — typically "loaned" by their employers — to work at nonprofit organizations that need help. This year's group tackled 110 projects that had been submitted to United Way and approved.
But the program has benefits beyond getting work accomplished.
It also offers nonprofits an opportunity to get their message out, with employees of each agency giving a presentation about their organization to volunteers before the work begins.
In the sense of building community, the day brings together people who otherwise likely would not cross paths.
And it's a boost for the volunteers. In some cases, the day is used as an acknowledged team-building activity, while for others it's simply a welcome change of pace and an opportunity to do good.
"When we sit in an office all day long, it's nice to be out and helping," said Deb Peterson, of Deere's global fulfillment department.
But make no mistake, many of the jobs are sweaty, dirt-under-the-fingernails work. Here's a closer look:
• Family Resources, a social services organization based at the Annie Wittenmyer campus, 2800 Eastern Ave., had 50 volunteers painting 28 dorm rooms that will be used for the agency's 24-hour foster child group care.
An hour into their work, nearly every volunteer's T-shirt was stained with sweat, and paint fumes permeated the humid air.
• Skip-A-Along, a child care and development center at 1609 4th St., had 54 volunteers. They weeded eight raised vegetable beds (the beds were built as a Day of Caring project last year), laid rubber mulch on the playground, replaced shingles and wood on a storage shed, trimmed trees and painted.
An out-of-the-ordinary project at Skip-A-Long was the installation of a "Born Learning Trail," funded by United Way's Women's Leadership Council. The trail consists of signs on posts, with each sign suggesting an activity such as reciting the alphabet, rhyming words or singing.
• Hand-in-Hand, an organization that provides education and recreation for children, including those with disabilities, had 13 volunteers working with children and installing wood chips on the playground. Hand-in-Hand is at 3860 Middle Road.
Andrea Heitman, of Deere, chose to work in the preschool room where the noise and activity level was noticeably higher than in the infant and toddler rooms.
She read "Sheep Out to Eat" to a 4-year-old named Emmitt and helped pass out snacks that at first glance looked liked Twinkies but were actually nutritious bananas.