Inside the game room at the Seneca-Babcock Community Center, Jenelle Hayden rolled a coat of azure blue paint onto a metal cabinet filled with board games.
As a volunteer during the United Way’s Day of Caring, Hayden was in Buffalo’s Seneca-Babcock neighborhood for the first time in her life on Wednesday.
“My dad grew up here,” said Hayden, who grew up in South Buffalo.
Hayden’s father used to go to the community center as a kid, she said, and he played youth football at the nearby Boys & Girls Club, formerly the Babcock Boys Club.
Hayden, who works in the prepared foods department at the Wegmans store in West Seneca, was one of more than 3,300 volunteers from more than 145 organizations spread out at more than 120 sites in Western New York participating in the community-service effort organized by the United Way.
Hayden also was part of a group of about 300 employees from Wegmans’ nine Erie County stores, Try-It Distributing, North American Breweries and other companies who descended on Seneca-Babcock to spruce up the sites of three non-profits.
It took six buses to haul volunteers to the Buffalo neighborhood.
In addition to the community center, the team of volunteers tackled a variety of projects at the Seneca Street Church and Community Development Center, as well as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo site on Babcock Street.
“We believe in doing something for the community, and this is a great way to do it in a compressed amount of time and letting a lot of people have a blast with it,” said Sandy Falsone, division training coordinator for Wegmans and the co-coordinator of the company’s assistance to the United Way.
This was Falsone’s 24th year of involvement in the Day of Caring.
“Look at how much fun everybody’s having,” she said. “They’re getting dirty, they’re sweating, but they’re going to walk away knowing that they had a great experience. They’re working with people they’ve never met before. They’re leaving a mark that they can feel proud of.”
The tasks varied at each of the site, including cleaning windows and slathering a fresh coat of paint – fire-engine red, to be exact – on the outside Boys & Girls Clubs site.
Weeds were pulled. Playground fences were painted. Damaged ceiling tiles were replaced inside the “dance room” of the community center.
Some volunteers participated in the Day of Caring for the first time. Others came back to help again.
Tina Turner, who grew up in Seneca-Babcock and now lives across the street from the Seneca Street Church, was happy to see another set of volunteers come back to the neighborhood this year as part of the Day of Caring.
“It’s like we’re the forgotten neighborhood around here, between Fillmore and Bailey (avenues),” Turner said. “Finally, something’s happening that’s good and we need it.”