Sweat equity in the county

It was hot and the sun beat down on the workers' brows all day, but it did little to dampen their enthusiasm for the United Way's Project CARE.

More than 60 volunteers swung hammers, pounded nails and swished paint brushes in eight projects around Barnwell County for "A Day of Caring," April 24.

Project CARE is a day for area volunteers to donate their time and skills to home improvement projects that can be done in one day, said Barnwell County United Way director Fred Geier.

"It's good to help out somebody and see the smiles on their faces," said volunteer Denise Long.

Long - along with six others - was building a handicap access ramp and doing lawn maintenance and some light painting to a house in Williston.

"This is my first time working and I enjoyed it," said Melinda Wilson, another volunteer at the project.

Behind her, project leader Norman Smith was busy at work with a power saw slashing into wood to be used on the approximate 40-foot ramp.

"He (Smith) deserves an award for putting up with us women all day," joked Wilson.

When asked by The People-Sentinel later how he put up with the gentle ribbing from the women, he said they were all a big help.

"But hey, walk around the corner and I'll tell you the real answer," quipped Smith.

Earlier, the women painted a shed and house awnings, cut grass and mulched.

Volunteers throughout the day painted First Steps in Blackville and clipped its lawn and hedges; painted at the Gail Reyes Senior Center; gave Veterans Park a facelift and built three wheelchair ramps for county residents as well as completing other resident projects such as lawn maintenance, light carpentry and painting.

The projects all aim to improve the quality of life for their residents or make a positive change for the community, said Geier.

"It's not just about building ramps - if you're blind and have someone come in and clear out dust mites, that improves the quality of that person's life, " he said.

Two of the projects are helping keep people out of assisted living facilities, he said.

"We are trying to keep people independent for as long as possible," said Geier.

Sammie Taylor of Williston is missing a leg and the quality of his life went up a few notches because of Project CARE.

Three workers put up an approximately 40-foot ramp to give him easy access to the outdoors at his residence in Williston.

"Before this, I would have to get on my butt and slide down the steps or hop down them," said Taylor.

"I just have to look at it to enjoy it - it's beautiful," said Reatha Brown, the owner of the house.

She said both her and Taylor like to go outside.

Because of the volunteer efforts it will be easier for them to now enjoy the outdoors.

"I'm overwhelmed," said Brown.

Partners, sponsors and supporters for Project CARE include Generations Unlimited, The Barnwell County Ministerial Association, Axis 1 Center of Barnwell, Salkehatchie Chapter 828 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Barnwell County First Steps, Anthony's Restaurant and the Savannah River Site.