Service day brings communities together

The Allegheny College and Meadville communities participated in an annual service event in Meadville and the greater Crawford County area on Saturday, Oct. 15. About 320 Allegheny students and Meadville community members met at Diamond Park early on Saturday morning to participate in over 100 different service projects.

“Allegheny students are able to come down into the community and join community members in service,” said Ellen Bach, Bonner program coordinator. “It’s a one-day event where we tackle a lot of home repair projects for community members that might not necessarily be able to get those type of necessary repairs done otherwise.”

Bach helped to recruit volunteers and helped match volunteers to different project sites along with AmeriCorps VISTA Project Director Erin O’Day Frye.

Civic Engagement at Allegheny paired with United Way to find sites for volunteers to work at on the day of service.

According to Bach, United Way works in the community to find service opportunities. People must call in to United Way and meet certain criteria in order for volunteers to help them complete household repairs and chores on Make a Difference Day.

“We had a really good turnout of youth groups that came out from the different local area high schools or middle schools,” said Bach. “A lot of those folks were able to partner with college volunteers on things like raking leaves, simple yard projects, cleanup projects, some light painting or just general maintenance type stuff.”

Bach said it is important for Allegheny students to work with community members by doing service.

“I think it’s really important to kind of bridge the gap between community and the college,” said Bach. “I think that it gives a really good opportunity for college students to have interactions with the community in a really positive and beneficial way, in a way that’s kind of reciprocal. It’s kind of helping out the community, but the community members are also able to teach the college students and show them what the community is about.

“I know a lot of folks shared that they learned stories about particular community members that they never would have learned about before,” Bach said.

According to Bach, Make a Difference Day gives Allegheny students a chance to work with community members and learn about the community and its residents in a way that they would otherwise not be able to.

“I think it’s just a really great, positive way to bridge the gap between the community and Allegheny and to have that reciprocity,” said Bach. “Both college students helping out the community but also kind of learning a little bit about the space they’re living in for the next four years.”

Katie Mays, ’19, participated in Make a Difference Day with Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. They went to Bicentennial Park with Meadville Mayor LeRoy Stearns.

While they were there they mulched and helped cut down plants that were endangering wildlife in the park.

“[The Mayor] was involved and definitely appreciative of the volunteers,” said Mays. “He even brought us donuts.”

This was Mays’s first time participating in Make a Difference Day and said she plans on doing it again. She said members of her chapter plan on going  back to finish the work that they did not get done on the day of service.

“It’s nice to help out with the community,” said Mays.

Mays had never been to Bicentennial Park before volunteering, and she said it helped her realize and appreciate the beauty of Meadville.

Holly Mangan, ’19, volunteered at a woman’s house with Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. This was her first time participating in any type of community service with Allegheny.

“She just needed us to move firewood from outside into her house, but we also raked and cleaned her gutters,” said Mangan. “There was 11 of us, so we were willing to do whatever she needed.”

Mangan and her group got to work with the woman and hear stories from her life while they were volunteering at her house.

“I definitely will do it again. It was a really interesting day, and it was not what I was expecting at all,” said Mangan. “Once we started talking to this woman, it was so interesting. She had all these stories and wanted to show us pictures of every person in her family. She showed us pictures that she had taken. She made us lunch, which was not expected at all.”

Mangan plans to participate in other events involving community service. She said her experience was eye-opening because she helped a local woman and got to know her on a personal level.

“She had us give her our birthdays and our phone numbers,” said Mangan. “I know that’s not really how it went for most people on that day. She made a huge difference to us, in our day and just in general.”

Mangan said her experience was unique and rewarding. She said community service helps establish a connection between college students and the community that they live in.

“It benefits Allegheny because it just reminds us that we are a part of this community. It’s so easy as college kids to just live on campus and never leave campus. It’s a funny little society almost,” said Mangan. “We should care about the people that live around us. It makes me really proud of my school and the organizations that I’m in that participate in service. I made a lot of friends that day.”

Mangan was with her group for about six hours on Make a Difference Day, and said it was an experience that she will not forget.

“Personally, I just think if I have the ability to help people, I’m going to do it,” said Mangan. “It doesn’t require that much work on my part, but it makes a very big difference. It’s a very visible difference. I can see the change that I’m [making], and it’s just so rewarding.”