Saturday marks the first day of summer, a day and season children and families alike look forward to all year with the hopes of vacations and warmer weather.
Though that’s typically true, as the weather begins to wilt us down as it heats up, June 21 also marks the summer solstice. And while the solstice is often just referred to as the longest day of the year, which is true, there is also plenty more to be known about this phenomenon, as well as plenty of things that go in tandem with it.
The summer solstice falls each year on June 21 or June 20 and is a day when the sun will reach its northernmost point in the sky and produce the day that has the longest period of daylight.
Along with the summer solstice, there is also a solstice in December, usually on the 21 or 22, and equinoxes on March 20 and Sept. 22 or 23, which occur with and produce our four seasons.
According to the National Weather Service, this year the first day of summer, and into the first few days, could prove to be lacking in sunlight in Wilson County.
Saturday shows a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in the area, with a mostly cloudy day and highs only reaching about 90.
Sunday and Monday also look to have 20 to 30 percent chances of showers and thunderstorms, but could turn sunny before another 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms creep back in for the rest of the week through Thursday.
Nevertheless, as vacations and camp kick into full gear around this time in order to take in that extra time or enjoy time off, it seems people across the country and the world have also kicked themselves into gear, too.
As it turns out, people have taken action to use the extra amount of daylight and often better weather to lend a helping hand, as the summer solstice also has an effect on volunteerism.
More specifically, June 21 is known as the United Way “Day of Action.”
On this date each year, United Ways around the world invite their communities and chapters to improve their way of life by getting out and helping in some way through volunteering with United Way.
According to the United Way website, the United Way Day of Action is now in its seventh year and “is an opportunity to inspire and engage people around the world to join United Way—on June 21 and for many days and years to come—in our work to address pressing social challenges in education, income and health.”
One way people can get involved through a national campaign is by pledging to become a volunteer, reader, tutor or mentor, and so far more than 300,000 have pledged to do so.
In 2001, United Way Day of Action’s fourth year, more than 250 communities representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico participated. That year, 1,235 project sites were facilitated by United Ways, which grew nearly three times from 2010, according to officials. Within those projects, more than 240,000 individuals benefitted from the activities of the United Way Day of Action.
In 2011, more than 250,000 items were donated and distributed during the Day of Action and around 50 Global Corporate Leadership companies participated in various cities across the United States.
Locally, the United Way of Wilson County has also participated in the Day of Action for several years.
According to United Way of Wilson County President John McMillin, the organization has jumped on the Day of Action events in the past and embraced the implication on volunteerism that the summer solstice brings.
McMillin said each year on June 21 there is a United Way worldwide push, but local activities are normally left up to each chapter to decide on and carry out. He said the United Way of Wilson County has been participating in the Day of Action for four years now.
Traditionally, McMillin said the group goes to libraries and helps volunteers and does activities related to that, but last year that all changed.
“We had several people that said that they wanted to get dirty and get physical,” McMillin said.
And with that, last year McMillin said the group had one of the largest groups ever come together to help build a Habitat for Humanity house. The help, he said, included the likes of Cracker Barrel, Publix and other local organizations.
“The problem we have this time is this year we’re trying to do a much larger project and I don’t know if it’ll come together in time,” McMillin said.
McMillin said the project the group wished to accomplish included helping on building a walking trail at Cumberland Mental Health.
“Usually these people are in cold rooms and they want to get them into the open and so we wanted to help with a path to walk clients through,” McMillin said.
McMillin said they would need donations of heavy equipment and other things to complete the task, but so far he’s again got several local businesses and organizations on board.
For now, though, McMillin said so far their plans for the Day of Action are “in limbo.”
Though the solstice is celebrated and revered in many different ways around the world, most with holidays, festivals and vacations, it’s clear more and more people are using their extra long day for lending an extra hand.