Nearly 2,000 volunteers took part in the second annual GC Gives day. With more than 50 service sites across Milledgeville and Baldwin County, volunteers spent the morning of Saturday, Aug. 17 with their sleeves rolled up, working to help others.
It's the largest day of service in area with Georgia College being the only university in the state that requires all incoming students take part in a group service activity.
First-year students made up nearly 1,500 of the volunteers. Others were Georgia College faculty, staff members and upper classmen as well as community members.
“I think from Georgia College’s perspective it’s a wonderful opportunity for our new students to engage and interact with community members and community partners as well as see the community,” said Kendall Stiles, senior director for community engagement.
“By doing this almost at the beginning, when they first arrive here on campus, they understand the importance of community engagement and giving back, and that it’s a part of our DNA here. This is what it means to be part of Bobcat nation,” she said.
Volunteer work ranged from picking up trash at the Oconee River Greenway to helping clean animal cages at the local shelter to beautification projects at the Life Enrichment Center (LEC) and local churches.
“We painted musical notes on the wall and just helped them decorate the outside of their building,” said first-year Georgia College student Delzin Daruwalla, who was volunteering at Milledgeville’s LEC, a private non-profit program for adults with intellectual disabilities.
“I did a lot of stuff like this in high school so it was just fun to do it in a different place and with new people,” said Daruwalla.
During the three-hour timeframe, the approximately 2,000 volunteers made an estimated $152,500 economic impact on the community.
Students worked in groups alongside community members with projects like painting, cleaning and sorting at local public schools.
“We’ve been picking up trash, moving boxes, helping out teachers and just cleaning up the school for the new school year,” said first-year student Cam McEntyre, who worked at Lakeview Primary. “All the teachers are really thankful for us helping them out, and we are getting a lot of stuff done to help them.”
The help was welcome with many site coordinators noting there’s never enough time to get everything done. Many sites are non-profits with small staffs, schools or local faith-based organizations where finding volunteers can be a challenge.
“They helped us with projects that normally during the week we just can’t get done, so they’re a big help,” said Lakeview Primary Principal Tracy Clark.
From sorting clothes at a thrift store benefiting homeless veterans to various beautification projects, the students understood they were making an impact on the community. With that knowledge, they also came away with a greater understanding of the community they’ll call home for the next four years.
“When we came here I didn’t necessarily know about the Life Enrichment Center, but we sat down and learned a lot about it before we got started,” said Jaycie Bowen, a first-year student. “I was very excited because I love giving back to the community, and being in a new community, that’s a big thing for me to be able to give back to people.”
GC Gives began last year, born from a desire by Georgia College leaders to engage students in the community. The university partnered with Keep Milledgeville & Baldwin Beautiful (KMBB) to create the massive community service project.
“GC” in GC Gives stands for not only Georgia College, but also the Great Community movement. Something at the heart of KMBB's mission. Aside from volunteering, the community has also supported the project through sponsorships and other donations to help with supplies and other needs at the sites.
“People get an automatic rush when they get to help somebody, and this is the community’s way of both financially and through volunteerism of helping better the place we call home,” said Ashley Bacon, KMBB executive director.
For more information, visit https://www.gcgives.net/.