Recognizing Those Who Give Their Time — National Volunteer Week 2024

Members of the Miles College Golden Bears Softball Team, including DeOnia Gibby (third from right), pose for a picture during a day they worked to renovate a ballpark in Fairfield.

Since 2021, the first year that DeOnia Gibby was on the Golden Bears Softball Team at Miles College, she has been finding ways to be a force for good.

At the beginning of that softball season, the Montgomery native organized a backpack and supply drive for Robinson Primary School in Fairfield. Gibby, along with her teammates, donated about 30 backpacks full of supplies for the K through 2nd students.

From there, Gibby went on to organize Breast Cancer Awareness events and then brought the Miles team out to the school so that they could all volunteer for Read Across America.

After organizing so many events herself – and then serving as a tutor in United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA) partnership with Birmingham City Schools – Gibby was excited to find out that UWCA could provide her with even more group volunteer opportunities.

She’s one of a number of remarkable volunteers who United Way has chosen to highlight in connection with National Volunteer Week, which runs from April 21st through 27th. Upon learning about United Way Hands On, the volunteer center for UWCA, she realized that she could spend more time volunteering and leave the planning and organizing to them.

Anika Toth, a goalkeeper on the Women’s Soccer Team for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She’s another volunteer who got her start with Hands On by working with her school’s team.

As part of the team, Toth has participated in some Hands On back-to-school beautification projects. With her experience in public health, she said she’s happy to help improve children’s learning environments and that she takes pride in volunteering alongside her teammates.

Members of the UAB Women’s Soccer Team take a break from cleaning and trimming hedges at Henry J. Oliver Elementary School last August. Anika Toth, a goalkeeper on the team, is pictured second from right.

“Going into these volunteer projects and seeing the difference before and after makes me so proud to be a part of UAB because we’re changing the environment that kids are learning in,” Toth said. “When people come together for projects like that, it really just shows how much you can impact the community.”

For Marie Tenney, volunteering with Hands On has been about more than just giving back.

Tenney, following in the footsteps of her father, had built a career in the tech and business world. But for a long time, she knew she really didn’t like it. In 2021, she finally quit her job and, since 2023, has been volunteering with United Way in numerous capacities to build her experience outside of office work and to explore what she likes.

She first signed up with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program run by UWCA. Being a self-described anxious person, Tenney said she thought that working in an office environment might be the best way to dip her toe into volunteer work.

Judy Allen (left), Director of United Way of Central Alabama’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, and Marie Tenney, who became an avid United Way volunteer last year.

Tenney was an avid volunteer in the program, working two days a week and filling a variety of roles for the VITA team. She found that she particularly enjoyed the people she met through the work, both clients and United Way staff.

Next, Tenney joined as a volunteer with the Alabama State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which is run in Jefferson County by the United Way Area Agency on Aging.

Through her work with those two programs, Tenney said she has been able to tackle some of her social anxiety.

“When I started volunteering, I thought, ‘We’ll see if I can get out there in the world.’ I had a lot of anxiety,” Tenney said. “I’ve worked on that a lot the last few years, and volunteering has really helped me get out there and practice.”

Since then, Tenney has moved on to more physical, outdoor volunteer projects, including work at Norwood Elementary School in Birmingham. There, she helped frame the walls for an enclosed shed under a volunteer-built pavilion on the school’s campus. In addition to enjoying the physical nature of the work, Tenney said she loves meeting and working with people from all walks of life, who also find value in volunteering.

Volunteer Marie Tenney works on a shed at Norwood Elementary School as part of a United Way Hands On project.

“I’m just waiting for more notifications from Hands On of when the next project starts with any other schools or parks,” Tenney said.

For more information about upcoming National Volunteer Week events or other volunteer opportunities, visit