Seniors lead volunteer project for National Volunteer Week

From yard work to roof insulation, approximately 35 students from Union College participated in "Adopt-a-House," during National Volunteer Week (April 15-21). "It's nice to work in the community," said Tina Weston, freshman social work major. "Volunteering makes our community stronger."

Approximately 35 Union College students took a break from final projects and homework to "Adopt-a-House" on Sunday, at the start of National Volunteer (April 15-21).

When Clinton neighborhood residents Pam and Lance Dyas were offered an extra labor force for their aging home, they were excited.

"I told them, 'Surprise me!'" said Pam, mother of two small children. She grinned as Union College students cut boards to replace the porch, packed attic insulation, cleaned children's play equipment, cleared brush and created flowerbeds.

Organized by the senior class, all Union College students were invited to participate. Dana Connell, vice president for the senior class and theology major, helped lead the house project. She wanted the event to be helpful and reminiscent of a neighborhood block party, strengthening the community between neighbors.

"I really like helping community neighbors get to know each other," Connell said. "We wanted to create a senior class activity that did more than entertain ourselves."

At the beginning of the year, the senior class was approached by Shawna Kolbek, Union College's integrated volunteer coordinator and junior social work major, who inspired the class to use their leadership to get involved in the community. What followed was a collaboration effort by the six officers to come up with a project, the supplies and the volunteers.

Shelli Johnson, senior class president and business administration major, hopes their actions will challenge next year's seniors, other classes and campus organizations to get involved. "We wanted all the classes to see the project and say, 'Hey, we could do something to help the community too,'" Johnson said.

The officers' idea caught Kaylea Blackburn, freshman international rescue and relief major. She took a break on Sunday to help insulate the Adopt-a-House's roof and commented, "If you have an opportunity to be able to do something worthwhile, you might as well do it."

Julie Gutman, sophomore social work major, added with a chuckle, "It's also a useful method of homework procrastination."

Connell led three more small groups throughout the week to power wash the sides of the house and finish chipping the paint. She plans to return until the house is finished with priming and painting. "The Dyas are really excited and getting visionary," said Connell, citing the enthusiasm in choosing new paint for the house.

"We've been so blessed by college age volunteers," said Gloria Eddins, president of the Clinton Neighborhood Organization, who helped set Connell up with a family interested in the extra help. Eddins said many organizations have volunteered in the Clinton neighborhood this year and cited Union College's help at the beginning of the year with the 25th anniversary Project Impact, which focused one of the special afternoon projects in the Clinton neighborhood.

National Volunteer Week originated in 1974 when President Richard Nixon established the annual celebration of volunteering. Sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation and Volunteer Center National Network, this year's theme was "Inspire by Example."