- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s College of Maryland students are finishing up a month of volunteerism this Saturday as an effort to better the relationship of the campus community with the rest of St. Mary’s County and help out charitable and public organizations.
The student-led, community-service campaign, called St. Mary’s College Cares, set a goal of 1,000 hours of service by students, faculty and staff this month.
Each Saturday in April the students planned to help organizations including Patuxent Habitat for Humanity, Hospice of St. Mary’s, Three Oaks Center, Point Lookout State Park, a local animal shelter and a soup kitchen.
Emma Kaufman, a sophomore from Takoma Park and a political science and English major at St. Mary’s College, said it is not a particularly easy feat to talk college students into getting up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday.
Regardless, she said, “we’ve had a good turnout pretty consistently” during the last few weekends.
Senior Cassey Elder helped form a new public relations student club, which decided its immediate mission would be to boost the perception of college students to the rest of St. Mary’s County.
Elder said the group will focus on the relationship between college students and county residents — sometimes referred to as “townies.”
“We know it could be better,” she said.
Elder said that students volunteer throughout St. Mary’s in a variety of ways, but often people don’t recognize them as being from St. Mary’s College.
“Students are already doing so much service, but we just want to highlight it,” Elder said.
Elder and a few friends in the public relations club got more than 150 students to sign up to volunteer during the month of April under the name St. Mary’s College Cares.
The group set a goal of logging 1,000 volunteer hours in April, and they are well on their way to meet that goal, Elder said.
“We wanted to have a surge of St. Mary’s students doing things in the community,” she said.
Last Saturday a group of students went to Leah’s House, a shelter for women and children, where they helped clean sheds, organized a food pantry and pitched in as needed. They also were given information about the shelter’s mission and how it assists women and children who are homeless and in need of help.
Those lessons were particularly valuable to Kaufman, who said she wants to work in a shelter or for social services after graduating from college.
She said that while she did volunteer a lot during high school, this was the first time she did while in college. “It’s really kind of transformed my outlook on the ways we can impact the community,” Kaufman said.
Cindy Dixon, a board member with the St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League, said that students pitched in at the organization by brushing cats, cleaning and even doing laundry one Saturday earlier this month.
“St. Mary’s College had 15 to 20 students come that day, which was amazing,” Dixon said.
She said it is important for people to volunteer, otherwise groups like animal rescues and shelters would not exist.
“I thought it was a great idea” and a good way for the students to get to know the community, she said.
“We are passionate about service here at St. Mary’s College,” said Kelly Schroeder, assistant dean of students, said in a statement. “Whether it is through events or volunteer activities, our students, faculty and staff are finding meaningful ways to plug into the community.”
St. Mary’s College of Maryland was recently named to the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, which recognizes a college’s commitment to volunteering, service learning and civic engagement. This was the college’s third time making the list.