All Hands on Deck: Annual Day of Service Helps Campus and Communities, by Sudha Kamath

“It’s such an enriching experience, I’ve been anxiously waiting for the opportunity to sign up for another project this week,” says Amber Knighting, assistant director in Learning Services at George Mason University, who joined University Life’s Day of Service for the first time last year and is looking forward to returning to volunteer at the fourth annual such event on July 31.

Part of University Life’s summer retreat for its employees, the Day of Service is open to other George Mason employees and students who want to build camaraderie, roll up their sleeves and join volunteer projects on campus and around Northern Virginia. Last year, about 200 people took part; that number could climb to 300 this year.

Participants should signup online by noon on July 29 for one of 18 projects that attest to Mason’s commitment to doing good and being well.

“It’s an opportunity for staff to engage with colleagues to model ways to be an engaged citizen and put the Mason and University Life core values into practice outside the traditional office setting,” says Rose Pascarell, vice president of University Life.

“We hope to enhance awareness and understanding of the needs of various populations from which our students come, through these on-campus and area service projects,” says Amy Snyder, director of special projects for University Life.

Snyder says each service project also includes an educational component on the issues affecting the local community and beyond, and on the agency involved so participants can consider volunteering in the future. After the service projects, University Life employees will reflect on what they have learned and how it can be applied to their work year-round with students.

Off campus, this year’s projects will help Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Arlington Food Assistance Center, Boys and Girls Clubs of Prince William County and Manassas, Fairfax Humane Society, Fairfax Library, Hanley House, Our Daily Bread, Piedmont Trail Clean-Up, Ronald McDonald House, Sandy Run Regional Park, SERVE–Food Distribution Center and Sunrise Senior Living.

On-campus projects will help the Child Development Center, a Creativity Corner (to support the Domestic Violence Action Center and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital), Maddie’s Blankets;Potomac Heights Garden and Project Linus.

Knighting says she and her husband, Shane Phillips of Housing and Residence Life, will volunteer on the water during a cleanup at Sandy Run Regional Park. “We’re continually grateful to be members of such a vibrant and energizing work environment,” she adds.

Lisa Snyder, associate director of the Office of Leadership, Education and Development, agrees. “The Day of Service is an opportunity for faculty and staff to step away from our desks and give back to both the campus and neighboring communities…in health education, hunger, homelessness, environmental issues and the arts, and to children, survivors of abuse, veterans and shelter animals.”

“I have made felt blankets, crocheted hats for babies and helped out at a domestic violence shelter,” says Corrine House of Student Involvement of her past participation in the volunteer day. “My co-workers in University Life bring all of their knowledge to this event. It always amazes me to see the talent, teamwork and fun that happens.”

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