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National Volunteer Week brings out best in students

April 18, 2012

By STEVEN NALLEY
sdnedu@bellsouth.net

Sheikh Taylor’s day care center has not seen a new coat of paint in at least eight years.

Taylor, Brickfire Project deputy director, said the building is approximately 20 years old, but the Brickfire Project purchased it eight years ago. It has not painted it since.

Painting would have cost $2,700 in professional expenses, but thanks to a team of volunteers, Taylor said this money will instead go toward Brickfire doing what it does best: serving children.

“Being a nonprofit in these economic times, volunteerism is a big plus,” Taylor said. “Those things have allowed us to do what our budget hasn’t allowed us to do like beautification projects and removing old playground equipment. We’re really excited about it, (and) the kids are really excited about it.”

Repainting the Brickfire Project building exterior is one of several projects Mississippi State University has slated for National Volunteer Week, which began Sunday and will continue through Saturday.

Darius Mangum is a student leader and community volunteer for the Maroon Volunteer Center, which is coordinating the week’s events. Mangum said the week is going well so far, with at least 10-15 people volunteering for each of 20 projects.

“On Monday for Operation Gratitude, we had over 200 people come out to sign letters to send to soldiers,” Mangum said. “Then today for Women Walk for Women, we had over 100 people come out and attend the event.”

One major volunteer effort slated for the week’s end is the Cotton District Arts Festival, where volunteers will provide information, assist with free events, set up and take down equipment for various performances and scheduled events. Mangum said MVC has been volunteering with several other festive events throughout the year, and its members love it.

“We try monthly to get involved, and not just on campus,” Mangum said. “The arts festival, the Everything Garden Expo (and) Pumpkinpalooza, most of our volunteers really loved that. It’s really good for the students to interact with the community and for the community to interact with the students as well.”

Mangum said some volunteering opportunities, including the Take Back the Night vigil to honor violence survivors, were originally scheduled for Tuesday but moved to Wednesday due to rain. The week also features four ongoing donation drives: Love Snacks, which provides healthy snacks to children in need; Soles 4 Souls, which collects gently worn and new shoes for those in need; a funding drive for a medical mission trip to Togo in West Africa; and a book drive for the Youth Environmental Sciences Learning Center at Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary.

The week also offers opportunities for guests to expand into new volunteering horizons, with training workshops from the Oktibbeha County Humane Society and Legacy Hospice. Anita Howard, OCHS shelter manager, said the orientation program lasts about 30 minutes, teaching students what to wear, safety precautions and areas of the shelter they are not allowed to enter.

“We like people in tennis shoes and blue jeans — no flip-flops, no shorts,” Howard said. “After (the workshop,) you’re pretty much free to volunteer between the hours of 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. We generally have anywhere from 70 to 100 volunteers per month.”

Howard said MVC and its programs have helped OCHS in the past; for example, on April 14, volunteers with MSU’s Montgomery Leadership Program held a dog wash where they bathed 44 dogs and collected $663 for OCHS. Taylor said MVC is also one of several volunteer organizations which have helped Brickfire, including the Maroon Club, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Day One, the MSU School of Social Work and more.

“We’re glad to see volunteerism is alive and well,” Taylor said.

Mangum said it is not too late to sign up for the volunteer efforts which have yet to take place, and they will even accept volunteers the day of the event. Volunteering opportunities are also not limited to students, he said. For a complete list of volunteer efforts, visit http://mvc.msstate.edu/volunteer/.

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