Inspire Dayton: Volunteer coordinator got creative to overcome COVID, serve needy

Jerri Langworthy, director of community involvement for United Way of Warren County, picks up toys collected by Centerpoint Health in Middletown Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. The toys from Centerpoint and other toys donated throughout Warren County will be donated to food pantries to distribute to families in need. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Jerri Langworthy, director of community involvement for United Way of Warren County, picks up toys collected by Centerpoint Health in Middletown Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. The toys from Centerpoint and other toys donated throughout Warren County will be donated to food pantries to distribute to families in need. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

No pandemic was going to keep Jerri Langworthy from putting volunteers to work.

Instead Langworthy, 60, found new ways to deploy the forces that provide community services in Warren County.

“When COVID hit, there was no more normal,” she said. “It’s really been difficult to come up with ways for people to volunteer at a six-foot distance.”

Throughout this difficult year, people in our community like Langworthy have persevered and gone out of their way to help one another. This month the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of individuals who have inspired others in a new series called Inspire Dayton.

Working for the United Way of Warren County Volunteer Resource Center in conjunction with Warren County Community Services, Langworthy helped conceive of alternatives such as the “Donate for a donut” drive.

Another example: “Virtual volunteers” sent “Thinking of You” cards to seniors served Meals on Wheels.

“We strive to find solutions for identified problems in the community and find ways that we can work together to address those issues,” Langworthy said.

Seniors looking for a way to contribute while practicing social distancing added 40 toys to Santa’s bag in exchange for a donut handed to each contributor.

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“They like to volunteer,” said Langworthy, who on Friday was turning over toys to folks conducting food drives in Kings and South Lebanon.

When the pandemic hit in March, the United Way in Warren County began developing a program to assist seniors, she said.

“It was discovered that for many, the shutdown eliminated nonessential travel for this population, and for those without a support system in place, that include the ability to shop for the necessities of food and personal care items,” Langworthy said.

So far, donations from the community have resulted in collection, packaging and arranging for delivery of nearly 18,000 personal-care items and about 350 food boxes for seniors.

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Lead persons were identified and volunteers organized by neighborhood dropped off items on seniors’ porches.

The volunteers inspire Langworthy.

“To see the kindness and outpouring of goodwill that the many volunteers, young and old, provided certainly renewed my faith in what we already know — there are many wonderful and caring people in the world,” she said.

Langworthy is also mourning her best-friend’s death, apparently from COVID-19, while in remission from cancer. Her friend was the first person she’d known claimed by the deadly virus.

“I was with her two weeks ago today,” Langworthy recalled.

Langworthy grew up in Preble County and until recently lived in Monroe. Now she lives in Richmond, Indiana. She has worked for United Way of Warren County for 21 years.

She also is a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army. Her ex-husband was also in the Army and Army Reserves.

“Military life afforded me the opportunity to live in Louisiana, California and North Carolina ... I spent many years as a lead family-support volunteer responsible for coordinating activities and sending out timely and accurate communications to our family members within the unit during three war deployments,” Langworthy said.

She continues to be an active member of Prosser Chapter #367, Order of the Eastern Star in Middletown, where she also serves as an officer in the Masonic organization. She also has a son and daughter-in-law, Don and Kristin Langworthy, and three grandchildren in Maineville.

Rather than dwell on the negatives, Langworthy encouraged others to learn something during the pandemic.

“I’ve seen it as an opportunity to learn some new things. I had never done a zoom meeting,” she said.

Her efforts were recognized by Laura Lind, senior center coordinator for Warren County Community Services.

“I have to say that Jerri’s dedication and help have been very inspiring to me. We both laugh now at how crazy those first few weeks were,” Lind said.

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Donations are still being collected for the holiday toy drive in boxes at:

  • Warren County Government Office, 406 Justice Dr., Lebanon
  • Woodhill Cemetery, 6228 Hamilton-Middletown Road, Franklin Twp.
  • Carlisle Administration Building, 760 Central Ave.,
  • South Lebanon Administrative Building, 10 N. High St.
  • Deerfield Twp. Fire Station 57, 3435 U.S. 22,
  • Lebanon City Hall, 50 S. Broadway
  • Franklin City Hall, One Benjamin Franklin Way

Inspire Dayton

Throughout the month of December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of people who have persevered and inspired others during this challenging year. Read all the stories at DaytonDailyNews.com/inspire-dayton. Tell us who inspired you in 2020 by emailing jordan.laird@coxinc.com.