Students donate 7,000 service hours to downtown Danville
Service is a major component of the Centre experience, and many students went out of their way recently to give back to the local community.
Students in the Bonner Scholars Program and Centre Action Reaches Everyone (CARE) donated 7,000 hours of service to the downtown area of Danville alone in the calendar year of 2012. With many students eager to give their time and several important agencies just minutes from campus, things come together naturally.
“Students in the Bonner Scholars Program commit to engaging in at least eight hours of direct service each week at a non-profit agency, school, government agency or church in our local community. Danville is fortunate to have many of these agencies located in the heart of the city, which means that these agencies are within easy walking distance for our students,” says Patrick Noltemeyer, associate dean and director of community service and Bonner program. “Bonners have developed strong relationships with agencies like the Community Arts Center and the Heart of Kentucky United Way, helping to facilitate projects to meet the needs of our community and improve the quality of life for all, while developing leadership skills and a heart for service.”
CARE, Centre’s largest umbrella service organization, coordinates volunteer opportunities and is open to all students. Those participating in both CARE and Bonner went above and beyond in 2012 while responding to the needs of downtown Danville.
“We find that many of these places become like a second home to the students and they, in turn, do more service than is required of them. The students become advocates for these organizations and give endlessly to help them,” says Community Service Coordinator Kara Beer. “Not only do students walk away with service experience, but also with strong relationships, which are deeply rooted in the common commitment of addressing a need in the community. These relationships and strong ties to their local community help motivate students to give of their time to Danville.”
Projects and agencies that Centre students have worked with in downtown Danville include Heart of Kentucky United Way (HKUW), the Harvesting Hope Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen, Soup’s On Us with local churches, tutoring, working with the Lightbulb Learning Center and many more.
Bonner Scholar Thomas Becker ’15 works with Bate Middle School as a tutor and also works with the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA), a program directed at students in seventh through 12th grades with the help of the Danville Boyle County Chamber of Commerce.
“YEA aims to teach students the ins and outs of starting and running a real, bona fide business. They learn everything from the creation of a business plan to the importance of marketing and the invaluable skill of public speaking,” Becker says. “We go on field trips to local businesses—Papa John’s was a favorite of the students, I’m sure!—and host special speakers from around the Danville community. It’s a great networking opportunity for them, and it’s a pretty good opportunity for me, too.”
For Becker, doing service in downtown Danville has helped him learn much more about the community—and vice versa.
“Danville is its own little metropolis. Much like Centre, Danville and its residents are often put into a bubble of their own. They don’t seem to know what happens at the College, they don’t have that sense of connection to the Centre community,” he says. “Bonners see service in downtown Danville as this chance to form these bonds, make these connections. We are addressing service needs right in front of us.”
“The positive relationship between the City of Danville and the College—the ‘town and gown’—enhances the educational experience for our students,” Noltemeyer says. “Bonners play an important role of being consistent, trained volunteers for these agencies, and are able to return to campus with an improved understanding of the mission, purpose and importance of these agencies, serving as inspiration for other Centre students to volunteer in those ways as well.”
Although the 7,000 hours of service students devoted to downtown Danville last year is staggering, it’s even more impressive to consider the amount of time they donate locally as a whole.
“There are more than 50 students in the Bonner Scholars Program who are performing eight to ten hours of service each week, thus giving back almost 500 hours of service each week to the community,” says Beer. “You can do a lot of good in 500 hours, and that is exactly what Bonners are doing each week.”
Working together with community organizations is mutually beneficial to Danville and to Centre students.
“In our community needs can too often go unseen, but we are fortunate to have agencies like the United Way and the Harvesting Hope Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen working each day to reach out to individuals and provide them avenues to achieve self-sufficiency,” says Noltemeyer.
For the many students who volunteer, service projects are just as enriching and important as every other aspect of their time at Centre.
“We are here at Centre for a liberal arts education. That isn’t just the time spent in different academic areas; Centre provides opportunities to educate the whole student. We can join athletic teams, become members of social fraternities, get involved with countless student-run organizations, and we can serve,” says Becker. “Serving, for me, is this opportunity that allow us to step into someone else’s shoes, to see the world from a different perspective. I can’t think of a better use of my time and talents than giving back to this Danville community.”
“While Centre students may only be in Danville for four years, we emphasize that, during that time, they should take an active role as citizens,” Noltemeyer says. “This type of civic engagement has become part of the fabric of the Centre experience.”
By Elizabeth Trollinger