Emory Report
June 8, 2009
Volume 61, Number 32


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June 8, 2009
Community service projects take root at Staff Fest

By leslie king

Staff Fest is becoming more than a day away from the desk. To the fun, food and physical activities of Staff Fest, add community service.

While the party hosted by Human Resources started in the afternoon of May 15, Emory volunteers fanned out in the morning for three hours of giving back.

“Last year we organized an incredibly successful opportunity for community service,” says outgoing Employee Council president Matt Engelhardt, sending volunteers on-site to Project Open Hand and the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

This year volunteers went to Oakhurst Community Garden, Project Open Hand and MedShare.

Coordinating with the Council, Volunteer Emory’s Harold McNaron set up the three projects. Providing transportation, courtesy of the Employee Council, brought out the response. The garden and Open Hand “sold out,” McNaron noted. MedShare didn’t have the transportation component but about six or seven showed up, he said, to pack medical supplies to ship to countries in need of them.

One of the drivers behind the service component for Staff Fest is Linda Sheldon, a past president of Employee Council and a maintenance administration manager, dubbed by McNaron as “a rock star” for community service.

Why a community service component to Staff Fest? “Some people didn’t connect with Staff Fest,” Sheldon explains, but “giving of yourself felt like a real contribution.

“We wanted to sponsor the opportunity and were looking for a venue for how to make it work,” she says. “Volunteer Emory made the whole thing take off.”

Based on enthusiastic response from participants, McNaron hopes next year to add projects.

Despite the feel-good, there’s work involved. “One participant said she scooped lima beans for three hours,” McNaron says.

He shared comments from the post-project surveys:

• “It was a pleasure to get to know your co-worker off the job site.”

• “I had no idea how many medical supplies were just wasted, when people in many countries need them so badly.”

• “I learned there was a large need for meals in the Atlanta area and that volunteers play an integral role in filling that need.”

Meanwhile, back on the Quad that afternoon, service didn’t stop. The Employee Council publicized barrels placed around to collect food for the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

And two staff members from Emory Law, Amy Tozer, director of student publications, and Deb Floyd, director of student affairs, were making real a project they’d had been inspired to do: Collecting supplies for summer schools.

“Deb and I were overwhelmed by the generous response to our call,” Tozer says. “Not only did Emory staff fill two huge bins with new school supplies, but several people also brought boxes of gently used three-ring binders. We received everything from crayons to calculators to backpacks. In addition, we asked people to sign cards with words of encouragement for the students receiving supplies.”

Tozer says the school supplies are going to two Emory community partner organizations: the Agape Community Center which distributes school supplies in early August to underserved children of all ages; and Refugee Family Services which needs summer school supplies right now.

Tozer credited Employee Council, Facilities Management and the Office of University-Community Partnerships for support.

Floyd says, “For as long as I’ve been associated with the Emory community, it has always been a giving community. This just seemed to be the right thing to do this year.”

Engelhardt summed it up: “I was thrilled we were able to build on last year’s success by offering on and off-campus opportunities for community service.”