Annual Event Serves as a Festive Culmination of Year-round Service
Just on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Giving Tuesday, the unofficial national holiday focused solely on acts of generosity. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni all across the state are collaborating on donation campaigns, creating a groundswell of charitable giving.
While charitable efforts gain considerable visibility on Giving Tuesday, similar work unfolds throughout the year at each UNC System institution.
At every level, the UNC System dedicates itself to serving the communities around us. For many students, service learning coursework is integral to their curriculum. Many faculty are deeply involved in research aimed at strengthening communities and promoting international collaboration around the globe. Each constituent institution has formalized a community engagement plan as part of the UNC System’s Strategic Plan goal to “increase investment of time and resources in strengthening North Carolina communities.”
The faculty and students who organized and participated in “alternative fall breaks” in October, 2019, offer one more concrete example of how, across the UNC System, charitability is an ongoing dedication.
For them, time out of the classroom was much more than a chance to indulge in a mid-semester getaway blowout. It was an opportunity to give something back in the form of service.
Why Some Students Spent Their Break Hard at Work
This fall, Appalachian State University students, staff, and faculty spread out to serve three unique community organizations: Ziggy’s Refuge Farm Sanctuary in Providence, NC; Camp Twin Lakes’ You B You Camp for autistic children and their families in Winder, Georgia; and Charlotte-based human trafficking and women’s rights organizations Cabarrus Victims Assistance Network (CVAN), Safe Alliance, and Lily Pad Haven. These Alternative Service Experience programs were offered through Appalachian and the Community Together, part of Appalachian State University’s Division of Student Affairs.
Sophomore EC Scholars from East Carolina University went on an “impact trip” to Washington, DC during their fall break. There, they volunteered with the DC Central Kitchen, an organization that transforms surplus food into balanced meals that nourish the community. Their work didn’t end there. The scholars met ECU alumni and toured the Pentagon, Capitol, and National Museum of African American History and Culture. They also visited the JPMorgan Chase Institute with ECU alumnus Tremayne Smith, where they talked with the institute’s President and CEO Diana Farrell and Operations Specialist Carla Ricks, a North Carolina native. Through all of these activities, the EC Scholars learned how they can make lasting social change in local, regional, and global communities.
Meanwhile, another group of industrious Pirates traveled to New Bern to work on a Habitat for Humanity house. This service trip was offered through the ECU Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.
North Carolina Central University’s Office of Community Engagement and Service hosted an alternative fall break for students and staff interested in supporting rebuilding efforts in communities impacted by Hurricane Florence. On October 11-12, 2019, NCCU students and staff gathered in Rose Hill to help a family whose home had been severely damaged. Partnering with Baptist on Mission, the Eagle volunteers removed drywall and stripped the damaged structure completely down to its frame so the home rebuilding could begin.
Members of the Wolfpack ventured to Rutherford County in western North Carolina. There, they partnered with Rutherford Housing Partnership to help residents in need make critical repairs to their homes.
Some students from UNC Asheville packed their trunks and headed off to the Elephant Sanctuary Discovery Center in Hohenwald, Tennessee, where they helped the organization make improvements to the grounds and prepare tasty (and sizeable) treats for the sanctuary’s fulltime residents, who trumpeted with delight.
When fall break came to Western Carolina University, some students headed home or took off to have much-deserved fun. Others, from WCU’s Emergency and Disaster Management Club, went to a storm ravaged Vidor, Texas, and rolled up their sleeves. Tropical Storm Imelda and resulting floodwaters damaged or destroyed numerous homes and the county was declared a federal disaster area, all while the town was still recovering from 2017’s Hurricane Harvey. “It was a 5-day trip for 10 of us to do something more than a food drive, as great as those projects are,” said Daniel Tizon, a junior and director WCU’s Emergency Management Student Association. “We did debris removal, working alongside homeowners who’d lost everything and maybe lend them some emotional support.”
One Day a Year to Feel Proud; 365 Days a Year to Serve Communities
Giving Tuesday generates a lot of excitement among students, faculty, and staff. For some, it is a welcome opportunity to redirect end-of-semester nerves toward positive productivity. No doubt each participating institution feels intense pride tallying up the donations at the end of the day.
But UNC System institutions also recognize that giving to the communities around us isn’t just a one-day event. It’s a long, steady push throughout the year.