Monday, March 22, 2010

Connecting with the community

Reaching out to the community will be the theme of this weekend for Bloomsburg University with The Big Event in full swing Saturday and a unique event Sunday bringing the campus together to help fight hunger and promote community art and action.

First on Saturday, nearly 600 BU students will take part in The Big Event, a community service project sponsored by our Community Government Association as a way to give back to the Town of Bloomsburg. Students will volunteer to tackle winter clean-up projects around town, concentrating on areas where students and residents are neighbors and public locations, such as Town Park and the Market Square Fountain.

Then on Sunday, we expect to see hundreds of students, along with many community neighbors, for our annual Empty Bowls Banquet benefitting the Bloomsburg Food Cupboard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Kehr Union Ballroom. The event is coordinated by our SOLVE (Students Organized to Learn through Volunteerism and Employment) office and is considered the biggest, single-day fundraiser for the local food cupboard.

More than 100 student volunteers helped coordinate the event, including hand-painting the bowls before they were sent off for firing. In addition, scores of community volunteers, our faculty and staff, stepped forward to create the soups, bread and organize live entertainment for the event. Just like The Big Event, this fundraiser brings out the best of our university and town working together for a great cause.

These community service efforts are a small part of BU’s ongoing initiative of volunteerism and civic engagement. Because of this commitment, BU was recently named to the 2009 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition of a college or university for its dedication to volunteering, service learning and civic engagement.

This year, the Corporation for National and Community Service recognized BU as one of only 16 percent of all higher education institutions honored for their impact on issues ranging from poverty and homelessness to environmental justice. Honorees are chosen based on a series of factors, including the scope and innovation of service projects, percentage of student participation, incentives for service and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.

As we’ve passed the mid-term of our spring semester and get closer to May graduation, this weekend serves as a reminder of the huge role BU students plays in the everyday lives of local residents. Our students leave here with a valuable college degree, of course, but also an understanding of the difference volunteer service can make in the life of a community.

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