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Sprucing up a community center in South Buffalo, helping prepare a Bailey-Kensington school for classes and celebrating the end of summer with a field day for children from the Boys & Girls Club of Buffalo were all part of the 21st annual United Way Day of Caring on Wednesday.

“Everything done today is meaningful,” said Michael Weiner, president of the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, as about 3,200 volunteers from 137 companies fanned out to 120 nonprofit organizations and projects. They left First Niagara Center at 8:30 a.m.

Weiner said the businesses that lent their employees also profited in an exercise of employee team-building.

“This is their way of encouraging employees to perform community service, and it encourages team-building,” he said.

The nonprofit organizations receive free labor for unbudgeted items to improve their operations, Weiner added.

“If they were to pay for this, it would take away from their primary missions,” he said.

Novice volunteer Wendy Quinn, a member of M&T Bank’s contingent of 300 volunteers, did gardening work outside Westminster Community Charter School in Buffalo and helped organize the textbook room inside.

“I’m excited to be part of the Day of Caring, especially helping at Westminster School, where M&T has donated millions of dollars there, and in the neighborhood, through its sponsorship,” Quinn said.

Bob Onesi, a longtime volunteer for the Day of Caring, said he looks forward to the end of the day, when he can see the breadth of what has been accomplished.

“At the end of the day, when you look back as you’re leaving, you see everything you and the others have done – you feel good,” said Onesi, an employee of Praxair in the Town of Tonawanda who has volunteered for 15 years.

This year, he and fellow employees worked at the Old First Ward Community Center.

Other Praxair workers served at the Frank Lloyd Wright Boathouse, along the Niagara River on Buffalo’s West Side, and at the Schiller Park Community Center on the East Side.

United Way account executive Heather Quigley spent her day visiting sites, to encourage volunteers and lend a hand. “Today is incredible. It really shows the generosity of our community,” she said. “This is why Western New York is such a great place to live.”

email: lmichel@buffnews.com