2021 Day of Caring and Ad Astra Volunteer Honors

The groove may not be all the way back, but this year’s in-person Nancy Perry Day of Caring breakfast felt a lot more like what the community was used to.

United Way of Greater Topeka took time to celebrate volunteers today with a modest gathering of about 100 in person at Great Overland Station, with even more following a Facebook livestream. The theme for this year, complete with rainbow tie-dye shirts, was “Getting Our Groove Back,” a nod to the accommodations the community has had to make during the pandemic.

The Day of Caring, which has been named for longtime UWGT CEO Nancy Perry since her retirement in 2008, is an annual milestone on the Topeka area volunteer calendar. Because it happens on a Friday, businesses are encouraged to let employees volunteer on work time. That extra shot of volunteer labor boosts local nonprofit capacity and this year represented around $55,000 in sweat equity by almost 500 volunteers for the 2,000 hours scheduled.

Matt All, UWGT Board Chair and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, asked the audience to imagine a future where everyone in the community was supported in living a strong, healthy and equitable life.

“Imagine that,” All said. “That’s the future we fight for. That’s why we show up at 7:30 in the morning on a Friday. We’re not gonna quit until the fight is won. And

that fight will not be won in one fell swoop, one big idea or one project. It will be won day after day, hour after hour, year after year, on days like this. All the stuff that seems ordinary, those are steps along the way to winning the fight. And that is a fight worth having.”

For the second year, UWGT presented Ad Astra Honors to exceptional community volunteers. The community was invited to nominate volunteers in youth and professional categories, and UWGT staff and volunteers nominated their choice for the Marge Heeney Award, the honor reserved specifically for service to United Way.

Bryce Liedtke received the Ad Astra Youth Service to the Community Honor (ages 21 and younger). Brenda Blackman received the Ad Astra Professional Service to the Community Honor (ages 22 and older). Joe Beasley was recognized with the Marge Heeney Award for UWGT internal volunteer service.

Attendees also got to hear from Nancy Perry, who attended with her family, including two of her grandchildren, and from featured speaker Brandon Fell, from UWGT partner Valeo Behavioral Health.

This year’s Day of Caring was sponsored by Security Benefit/SE2, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Capitol Federal, Stormont Vail Health, Evergy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, CoreFirst Bank & Trust and Shawnee County Parks and Recreation.

Additional volunteer opportunities can be found 24-7 on UWGT’s free volunteer online portal, TopekaVolunteers.org.

Photos of the day can be found on social media by searching the hashtag #NPDOC21.