1 of 10
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Community Nursing Servicing employee Kathy Love scrapes paint from a home in Salt Lake City Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011. More than 3,000 volunteers from some 80 Wasatch Front companies helped United Way of Salt Lake celebrate service and volunteerism during the 19th annual Day of Caring.

SALT LAKE CITY — Leonard Kaufman stood on the porch of his small Glendale area house in awe.

A dozen employees from Community Nursing Services were vigorously scraping the faded gray paint from his home's wooden siding. It's a tedious job that the 75-year-old Kaufman said took him a week the last time he painted.

"I've never had anything like this before in my life," he said. "I can't believe it."

The volunteers from Community Nursing Services, a nonprofit home health care and hospice provider, traded their blood pressure gauges for wire brushes and scrapers Thursday as part of the annual United Way of Salt Lake's Day of Caring.

"It's just a way for us to get involved and give back to the community," said Lynn Desmond, the company's fund development director.

Desmond joined about 3,300 others from 105 companies who abandoned the office to spruce up neighborhoods, read to schoolchildren and host career fairs in Salt Lake, Davis, Summit and Tooele counties. It was the largest turnout in the event's 19-year history.

"It's become a community family in terms of getting involved to help people. I think that's pretty cool," said Rebecca Dutson, United Way of Salt Lake chief operating officer.

In all volunteers participated in 145 service projects totaling $400,000 in donated labor, she said.

One of the day's highlights was called Stuff the Bus. Volunteers crammed 5,000 backpacks with school supplies into several yellow buses and delivered them to needy students in 15 schools. Businesses collected the backpacks over the summer.

It was Leonard's donation to a Mountain View Elementary School project that landed the Day of Caring volunteers on his doorstep.

Elizabeth Montoya, the school's family involvement coordinator, was in Leonard's neighborhood looking for items for a yard sale to raise money to build a community learning center. Leonard and his disabled wife Billie Jean gladly contributed. Montoya then suggested repainting their house to United Way.

"It's payback," Montoya said. "No, it's pay it forward. That's what it is. I like that."

Leonard couldn't stop beaming as he watched "the lady that is cause of all this, all this commotion" rake peeling paint off the garage. "I haven't had this much excitement for a long time, not since Stockton and Malone," he said.

While the former Utah Jazz greats are long gone, Leonard has more excitement to come. Montoya arranged for students from the University of Utah's Bennion Center to paint his house next week.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy