United Way Hosts Annual Day of Action

Creating Born Learning Trails For Early Education and Updating Murals in Local Parks

July 29th, 2020 - Oneida County, NY- United Way of the Mohawk Valley (United Way MV) was joined by local companies and volunteers, spent the day on four volunteer projects as part of their Annual Day of Action. Two groups of volunteers installed “Born Learning” signage along park trails at Quin Park in Utica and Pinti Field in Rome. The other two groups worked on creating and updating murals in local parks.

Sponsored by MVCC PA and Carbone Chevrolet, the “Born Learning” trail signs will encourage early childhood education and learning, supporting one of United Way MV’s core initiatives, Ready for Kindergarten.

“Born Learning” trails are a series of 10 interactive signs that offer fun, active learning activities for young children and their families. The trails help parents, caregivers and communities create quality engagement opportunities when out on a walk or visiting a local park. Based on the latest early childhood research and approved by national early learning experts, the Born Learning Trail is designed to help adults interact with children to boost language and literacy development and to help caregivers understand how to best support early learning in outdoor everyday moments.

“Research tells us children are literally ‘born learning.’ That means five years of education takes place before they ever enter kindergarten,” stated Erin Gutierrez Matt, CEO of United Way MV. “We know what happens in a child’s early years matters – for success in life and for school readiness. Installing the “Born Learning” trails in our community is a great outlet to help boost school readiness. The trail signs create a valuable community resources with innovative and fun tools for early childhood learning.”

United Way of the Mohawk Valley’s partnerships with local businesses made the project possible. Stone Age Landscaping and McQuade & Bannigan, Inc. partnered up to dig the needed holes to install the signs. Jay-K Lumber donated product needed for the installation. Volunteers from company sponsors and United Way’s Emerging Leaders United, Board and Committee members helped install each sign.


At the same time volunteers were installing “Born Learning” trails, even more volunteers spent the morning touching up and recreating murals in Utica.

One mural, sponsored by Berkshire Bank, was completely redesigned by local artists, Sophia Mandia and Deondre Linder. Sophia, a 15-year-old student at New Hartford Senior High and a 2019 graduate of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA), has created her own comic book and novel, and has studied under a former Disney Animator. Deondre Linder, a 19-year-old School of Art and Architecture student at Temple University, and also a graduate of YEA, most recently completed the Black Lives Matter mural in Kemble Park alongside three other local artists. The two young artists passion for the community drew them to help with creating a brand-new mural in Proctor Park. This mural was also made possible by Utica Signs & Graphics, and Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!)

At Quinn Park, First Source Federal Credit Union and their volunteers worked to revamp another mural, which United Way Volunteers painted in 2015. The mural has since been damaged by age and graffiti. Volunteers worked to give this mural the fresh look while keeping the original artwork intact. Volunteers will also cover both murals with anti-graffiti coating to help sustain the artwork for years to come.

With the current pandemic, today’s United Way Day of Action projects are a great way to help create fun interactive outdoor space for the community to enjoy. Sponsors that made the projects possible include: MVCC PA, Carbone Chevrolet, MV Builders Exchange & Homebuilders Association, First Source Federal Credit Union, Carpenters Local 277, Berkshire Bank, First Source, Nunns Home Medical Equipment, IBEW Local 43, NYS Public Employees Federation, AFL-CIO, Stone Age Landscaping, McQuade and Bannigan, and Jay-K Lumber. 

Background on Day of Action

Each year United Way of the Mohawk Valley works with local organizations on volunteer projects in the region. In previous years, meals were packages and donated to local food pantries, activity trails were created on trails, murals were painted in local parks and graffiti covered throughout the area.