HARRISONBURG — United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County has been hosting the annual Day of Caring for more than 20 years — and this year is its largest event to date.

The event is sponsored by Merck, Wells Fargo and James Madison University.

Day of Caring is an organized volunteer day where community members, local organizations and business teams can volunteer at local nonprofits to complete projects including physical repairs, client interaction, landscaping and office work, according to its website.

On Sept. 25, volunteers and community members will gather at Harrisonburg High School around 8 a.m. to kick off the Day of Caring with a grab-and-go breakfast, as well as listen to the event’s first ever keynote speaker, Jermaine Jones.

Jones is the founder of the New Jersey nonprofit Brothers Making a Difference, where he strives to change “just one life,” according to a press release. Jones has also given a Ted X Talk where he relies on his personal journey to deliver motivational and leadership messages.

Laura Toni-Holsinger, executive director of United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, said in a Monday interview that she found Jones by accident.

“We knew we wanted to have a keynote speaker,” Toni-Holsinger said. “We ran into this guy and realized he was a big deal. … He had a great personal story.”

With the annual Day of Caring making history with its first keynote speaker, it is also changing things up by hosting the event later in the year rather than during the spring.

With the shift in time, Toni-Holsinger said some of the already 581 volunteers are students from Harrisonburg High School, JMU and local elementary schools.

“We have 45 seniors from Harrisonburg High School who were allowed to miss class to volunteer,” Toni-Holsinger said. “We hope the event will encourage younger people to participate.”

Toni-Holsinger said there were 150 volunteer slots still available as of Monday. Those interested can sign up at http://getconnected.uwhr.org/.

Volunteers will be working on more than 30 projects located throughout Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, ranging from painting to construction projects.

“There is a nice variety of projects throughout the day,” Toni-Holsinger said. “There is some really important work to get done while increasing awareness.”

Contact Jessica Wetzler at 574-6279 or jwetzler@dnronline.com. Follow Jessica on Twitter @wetzler_jessica

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