“Join the A-Team for A-Day of Service!” was a catchphrase we chanted last week at the Center for Civic Engagement to get students pumped for Oglethorpe University’s Atlanta Day of Service, which took place last Saturday, October 1. More than 90 Oglethorpe students, staff, faculty, alumni, community members—and a recordbreaking 16 parents!—showed up bright and early for Oglethorpe’s second Day of Service this semester.
Volunteers gave their time at one of the following nonprofit organizations: Lynwood Park Recreation Center, Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Sunrise Assisted Living, Suthers Center for Christian Outreach or Open Hand. Whether they were creating trails and dams at Blue Heron Nature Preserve or preparing meals for the chronically and terminally ill patients at Open Hand, the volunteers worked selflessly in their endeavors to provide their best work to these organizations.
The Atlanta Day of Service was also the second COEXIST Oglethorpe event this semester. COEXIST Oglethorpe was started by students, staff, and faculty members in June 2011 as a response to President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. President Obama challenged over 300 colleges and universities around the country to promote intentional interfaith dialogue and community service. Center for Civic Engagement Program Coordinator Peyton Healy and Sophomore Class President Awet Woldegebriel kicked off Atlanta Day of Service and challenged them to think about and discuss “what does COEXIST mean to you?”
As a Center for Civic Engagement Student Ambassador, I had the honor of co-leading the service project at Suthers Center of Christian Outreach Thrift Store. Suthers Center opened its doors a year ago as a collaboration of local churches in order to provide food, clothing, and emergency assistance for over 130 families in the Chamblee and Brookhaven areas. The Suthers Center does not have any paid staff—they are all volunteers who run the Center six days out of the week.
Eleven students, parents, staff members and I unpacked nearly 100 boxes of donated winter clothing. We packed summer clothing away, put price tags on winter clothing and painted the display walls. We also made sure that the front of the store looked presentable and approachable for customers.
On Atlanta Day of Service, I learned something important: I learned how simple serving others can be. Serving others does not necessarily mean exhausting yourself to do something momentous or earth shaking, but rather doing something that makes someone’s day a little bit easier. Before volunteering at Suthers Center, I had the mindset that I had to do the former in order to be helpful. But, about an hour into our volunteering, one of the Suthers Center volunteers walked in with an astonished look on her face and expressed pure joy for our work: “What you all have done in an hour of time would have taken us MONTHS to accomplish!”
It was at that moment that I began to understand the real purpose for serving others. It doesn’t matter about the size of your actions; in fact, it was never about that. It is about your desire and pure kindness to lighten someone’s load, because they are a part of this world just like you.