by Karin Gollin, Coordinator of Volunteer Services
On April 2, Hampden-Sydney College held its first “Big Event” day of service. After breakfasting on donuts and orange juice, over 110 students, as well as faculty and staff, headed out to spend the morning working at thirteen project sites across Prince Edward County. They painted, cleaned, de-constructed, mulched, planted, sorted, cemented, shoveled, and more.
The Big Event was a high-water mark for volunteer service
at the College.
Overall this year there has been a marked growth in student volunteerism in the Farmville area. A new program of volunteer service and community engagement, created with a generous gift from Ferguson Enterprises, has allowed the College to connect more regularly with local community organizations. Service clubs, fraternities, honor societies, and individuals have responded well to an increasing range of service opportunities that have arisen from this greater community connection. The program is still young, but it has three areas in which new efforts are being created and existing ones supported: volunteer service, philanthropy, and community partnerships.
Volunteer Service: Giving your time
Volunteer Service is the core of the program. The focus here is encouraging students to give their time and talents to people in need. Many students come to Hampden-Sydney with considerable experience volunteering as high school students. We want to help students continue—and even expand—that service commitment, so that lifelong habits of volunteering are developed. This past year, volunteer service has involved a growing number of service clubs, as well as service work done by fraternities and other clubs and organizations on occasions such as the Big Event.
Hampden-Sydney College has a long tradition of service organizations. At the center of these organizations is Good Men Good Citizens (GMGC), a student group that encourages service involvement on campus and in the community. GMGC serves as the coordinating body for the other service clubs on campus, which currently include Circle K, the Hampden-Sydney Mentor Program, and Sigma-Nu/Hampden-Sydney Animal Rescue Club (SHARC). Habitat for Humanity and Rotaract have had active service clubs in the recent past. In addition, while not a club, the Hampden-Sydney Volunteer Fire Department is a place where students regularly volunteer to serve the community.
Circle K is a very active club with about 30 members. They participate in service activities nearly every weekend during the semester, and these activities range from Habitat home builds to river cleanups to the annual March of Dimes walkathon.
The Hampden-Sydney Mentor Program is a new service club created in February with 30 young men serving as mentors to 4th-grade boys at Prince Edward Elementary School. They have been given the boys with the greatest need for positive male presence. Similar to a Big Brother program, each mentor visits his little brother at least once a week. Initial reports from teachers are that the mentors are having a positive and welcome effect.
SHARC is a club that helps rescued dogs at the Southside Animal Shelter to get adopted. They help socialize and walk the dogs on Saturday mornings. This coming year, the “SHARC House” will open. It is a theme house where SHARC members will foster two dogs, getting them ready to be adopted out at the end of each semester.
Fraternities are one of the regular sources of labor for service projects. SAE sent 30 members to Habitat earlier this spring. Last November, RAMPS (started by a member of Lambda Chi) installed an access ramp for a Prince Edward woman homebound due to illness. Five fraternities contributed 38 men to participate in the Big Event. Theta Chi held two blood drives during the year and sent a team to the Relay for Life.
In addition to responding to calls for participation, the fraternities run some service projects of their own. GMGC partnered with the Inter-Fraternity Council to run the Greeks for Green program in September and October. This effort to collect and recycle aluminum cans on campus resulted in over 1,500 pounds of material being recycled rather than going into the waste stream.
In terms of individual fraternities, Sigma Nu stands out as one that has successfully developed a signature philanthropy. For several years they have regularly sent members to work with dogs at the county’s animal control facility. By socializing the dogs and posting them on pet adoption websites, the men of Sigma Nu save the lives of dogs that would otherwise be euthanized. This project was so successful that it appealed to non-fraternity men and spawned the SHARC service club that works at another animal shelter in the area.
The Big Event
Hampden-Sydney created its first Big Event this year at the request of President Chris Howard. Begun in 1982 at Texas A&M, the Big Event has spread to campuses across the country. It is now one of the largest student-led service projects in the nation. The purpose of the Big Event is to give back to the community and to thank local residents for their support throughout the year. It is also a powerful statement that Hampden-Sydney men want to help and serve others.
Guys who participated included both groups and individuals. Intervarsity, Circle K, Resident Advisor groups, fraternities, SHARC, and the German Club all sent members. We also had faculty and staff working alongside the students, including Dr. Howard who worked at one of the Habitat sites. When they were done, everyone returned to campus for a barbecue lunch at Chalgrove Lake. The day’s activities were as broad as they were varied: two groups of guys de-constructed houses to recover usable building materials for Habitat’s ReStore; one group painted the house of a family whose child has cerebral palsy; one group went to the Y and cleared trails, installed birdhouses, and planted shrubs; four groups went to Crossroads facilities and did planting work with intellectually disabled residents; one group went to Prince Edward County Elementary School to help sort and organize books for their Book Donation program; one group shoveled crushed rock to improve the kennels at the Southside SPCA and socialized the dogs; one group cleaned and mulched the grounds of College Church; one group did a huge trash cleanup along Abilene Road; and one group worked on landscaping at the Woodlands retirement community and visited residents.
Philanthropy: Raising and donating money
One of the classic ways in which we benefit our communities is by giving money to organizations doing good works. Philanthropic giving is the other side of the volunteer service coin. Both in doing good with their time through volunteering and in doing good with their money through channeling funds to community service, students learn to become men fully engaged in doing good in their communities. Philanthropy covers both the fund-raising side of funding as well as the personal donation of money to charities. Our aim is to help students develop life-long habits of giving as well as to learn how to be effective in both the raising and donating of money.
This year there were several notable fund-raising efforts. Good Men Good Citizens created the H-S Cares for Kids program to assist needy children during the holidays. The effort initially targeted 50 children, but the group was able to raise over $4,000 and provide warm clothing and toys for 140 children. Over 40 college students were involved: shopping for gifts, wrapping them, and giving them to parents and children. The program exceeded all expectations; it engaged a large number of students in service work and made a real difference to local families struggling through hard times.
Thomas Ewing ’13 ran a “Movember” campaign to raise awareness and funds for cancer affecting men, particularly prostate cancer. In November, students across campus sprouted moustaches. Suddenly growing a moustache is a conversation-starter; it provides the opportunity for students to learn about how to prevent cancer through diet, fitness, annual physicals, and preventative screening. It is also a way for the “Mo Bros,” as the moustache-growing men are called, to raise funds for research and treatment. Money raised goes to the Prostate Cancer Foundation for research on better screening tests and to LiveStrong for programs that support young adults battling cancer.
Circle K raised over $3,500 on behalf of the March of Dimes for Babies Foundation. Last year, Circle K raised more money for the March of Dimes ($2,500) than any other Circle K chapter in the world. This year, it exceeded the previous year and is tied for the top fund-raising group in the Farmville community.
On the main Saturday of Greek Week, the fraternities ran two philanthropy projects. At lunch, Sigma Nu held a crawfish boil and raised $1,600 to benefit SHARC and the Southside SPCA. For dinner, the IFC sponsored a cookout and raised $700 for the campus-wide Japan Relief fund.
A campus-wide coalition brought together by Student Government President John Sharp responded to the tsunami in Japan by raising funds for the Red Cross. Groups involved included the professional fraternity AXE, the Inter-Fraternity Council, Circle K, the Chess and Strategy Club, the Anime Club, and the International Club. They went to dorms and to special events to raise funds and overall were able to raise hundreds of dollars to donate to the Red Cross relief effort in Japan.
Community Partnerships: The College and the community
In addition to encouraging students to volunteer their time and generate funds for community needs, the College itself is increasing its engagement in the local Farmville community. In particular, Dr. Howard identified the Prince Edward County Public Schools as a focal point for Hampden-Sydney efforts to serve the community. Thus, a partnership between Hampden-Sydney and the public school system is gradually developing. This partnership involves students, faculty, and staff working with all three of the local public schools. Some projects enable H-SC students to serve as role models and mentors, while other projects target academic enrichment.
The Hampden-Sydney Mentor Program works with the fourth grade students. Next year, Circle K will start up a program called BUGS (Bringing Up Grades) that focuses on supporting academic achievement in the third grade. Students who raise or maintain their grade from one grading period to the next will be rewarded with fun events run by Circle K members every six weeks.
Next year, third and fourth grade students will have a community garden outside their classrooms. Thanks to the work of a group of Hampden-Sydney students led by Jordan Harless, students built two raised beds that will enable the kids to grow vegetables and flowers, learning first-hand about nutrition and plant life.
The Hampden-Sydney College Physics Department has put on exciting displays for local schools in recent years. Building on this, we worked with the School Superintendent’s office to develop a middle school science enrichment program to show how exciting and fun science can be. Called “Cool Science,” this program held two sets of workshops this spring: Biology in Action and Building Rockets. Faculty and students in biology and chemistry ran the sessions, and the student science honorary society Chi Beta Phi provided the support. In the first session, the middle school students came to Gilmer Hall and got to learn about (and handle) reptiles and amphibians, experiment with ways that exercise affects the pulse and respiration rate, and look through microscopes to see all the life in a drop of pond water. The rocketry workshop was a two-session series where each student built their own model rocket and then launched them outside.
Two programs are under development in conjunction with the area high school. At the request of the public schools, a mentoring program for high school students is being developed. The idea is to match them with a college student who has recently completed the college selection process and can therefore help them with essays and other aspects of choosing a college. Led by Dr. Elizabeth Deis, the Writing Center student tutors are interested in forming the core of this group of mentors. The psychology courses in the high school will be strengthened thanks to a program planned by Dr. Jennifer Vitale for the spring of 2012. With the help of psychology students and faculty at Hampden-Sydney, Dr. Vitale intends to give the high school students an intense two-week immersion in doing research in some of the major fields of psychology.
Overall, Hampden-Sydney is developing a program on Volunteer Service and Community Engagement meant to strengthen the College’s mission to develop Good Men and Good Citizens. It will also promote a positive and active role for the College in the Farmville community. Looking ahead to next fall, volunteer service will be integrated into the freshman orientation and transition. Every freshman Resident Advisor group will participate in a service project during the fall, both to increase their familiarity with the Farmville area and to get them started early in volunteering.
Good men doing good work.
Karin Gollin is the coordinator of volunteer services at Hampden-Sydney College. She is also the wife of Rev. David Keck, the chaplain of the College.