As part of a national service project for Emory alumni,
the Board of Governors of the Association of Emory Alumni (AEA)
organized National Alumni Volunteer Day, on Saturday, Nov. 15,
sending Emory graduates to food banks and soup kitchens across
the country to lend a helping hand in feeding those who are hungry.
In Atlanta, a mix of 35 local Emory alumni, members
of the Student Alumni Association (current students who assist
AEA with programming) and Volunteer Emory (VE) staff visited the
Atlanta Community Food Bank Product Rescue Center, where they sorted
more than 14,000 lbs. of food—enough for 10,000 meals—for distribution
to charities fighting hunger in the metro area as well as for meals cooked
for hungry people individually.
“I hope this will encourage alumni to plan more community service projects,” said
Hildie Cohen, VE director and an alumna herself (’96Ox, ’98C). “I’d
also like to see more projects with current students and alumni volunteering
The planning for the Atlanta project began over the summer when Renelda Mack
(’83C), outgoing president of the AEA Board of Governors, contacted
Cohen to talk about the idea of a national service day for alumni. Serving
at a food bank seemed like a good plan because most major metropolitan areas
have a food bank or soup kitchens.
Cohen has a longstanding working relationship with the Atlanta Food Bank,
where VE makes regular service trips, so coordination in Emory’s hometown would
not be difficult. The volunteer day was set for mid-November, which coincided
appropriately with National Hunger and Homelessness Month. Emory’s
VE-sponsored Hunger and Homelessness Week wrapped up with the Nov. 15 volunteer
“I started working on this in September; I did something everyday and I’m
still doing followup” said Chermayne Harda-way, coordinator of regional
programs for AEA. She contacted each alumni chapter, which was responsible for
organization in its home city. “It was a long process, but it was well
worth it,” Hardaway said.
Counting Atlanta, 15 alumni organizations took part. The largest turnout
was 54 volunteers in Washington. The farthest away was in Seattle. “We’ve
never had anything going on up there,” Hardaway said. In all, nearly
300 Emory alumni volunteered across the country.
When Mack was serving as president of the board of governors, she said her goal
was to strengthen ties among Emory alumni worldwide. The best way to do that,
she felt, was through community service projects.
The primary purpose of National Alumni Volunteer Day was to help the less
fortunate. However, there were several other goals; in this aspect, Cohen’s hopes
of forging tighter bonds between current and former students were right on the
“In Atlanta we wanted students to work closely with alumni,” said
Mack, who volunteered with 19 others in her hometown of West Palm Beach, Fla. “We
want students to know that we, as alumni, want to strengthen our ties with
Nationally, the hope was to create a domino effect. Volunteering would
bring alumni closer together within their communities; it also would increase
West Palm Beach, for instance, does not have a formal alumni chapter. But activities
such as volunteering serve as avenues for bringing the Emory community together,
even in a different state. The contingent there included not only alumni and
their family members but also parents of current students.
This is the first time alumni have organized a national volunteer activity, but
it almost certainly will not be the last. Hardaway said AEA staff plan to meet
in early 2004 to plan for future service activities in not only Atlanta but in
other cities with alumni chapters. Mack said the West Palm Beach alumni would
be meeting in a few weeks to plan for next year.