If spring semester at the College has Work Day, then the start of fall semester has its counterpart in Service Day. As with Work Day, several hundred students, faculty and staff come together on Service Day to work on various outdoor projects. A major difference is that the work projects are located in the greater community, rather than on campus. Another is that the vast majority of student workers at Service Day are brand new to the school, thus making the day an introduction to the surrounding community as well as to an aspect of Warren Wilson that has been central to its mission for half a century.
As in 2010, this year’s Service Day focused on hunger and food security issues in Asheville and Buncombe County. Statistics show that one in six Western North Carolina residents seek food assistance each year, an even higher figure than the national average of one in eight. In response to that daunting statistic, the 20 work locations on Service Day included school and community gardens, as well as sites such as Manna FoodBank and Loving Food Resources.
Morris’ Community Pavilion provided the morning meeting place for the hundreds of tan-shirted Service Day participants, as well as for bus and van boarding. Each of the work sites had its own supply of tools at the ready, as marked by a staked cardboard sign. As recorded music rang out from the pavilion, writing professor Gary Hawkins began walking toward the pavilion from the nearby parking lot and simply said, “Time to go.”
Yes, it was indeed time to go for the roughly 350 students, faculty and staff directly involved in Service Day. And the projects they were assigned to work on were as varied at the work sites themselves, from building a fence to protect the garden and chickens at Isaac Dickson Elementary School to constructing a raised-bed garden at Loving Food Resources Food Bank
A relative latecomer to the long list of sites this year was the nearby Evergreen Community Charter School, where education professor Annie Jonas presided over work done by 16 Warren Wilson students in her First-Year Seminar. As most of the students toiled in the school’s garden under a hot August sun, Evergreen environmental education coordinator Terry Deal also was excited to show a visitor some important work being done inside by other Warren Wilson students. The students were busy organizing a pantry established by Evergreen to provide food, clothing and school supplies to less fortunate members of the community.
One of the many enjoyable aspects of Service Day is that it gives students, faculty and staff an opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder on projects benefiting the greater community. Most the students and some faculty are new to their roles on Service Day. Jonas, for example, is teaching a First-Year Seminar this fall for the first time. History professor Tom Showalter, on the other hand, has taught more than 20 of them, and guided an equal number on Service Day. This year he led a group of students working in the garden at the Black Mountain Home for Children, a longtime service partner of Warren Wilson.
At the end of the day, all the buses and vans returned to the pavilion area to drop off hot, tired workers ready to celebrate the day’s accomplishments. And, of course, to enjoy some ice cream courtesy of the Service Program after a challenging day of work outside.
Dean of Service Cathy Kramer summed up what Service Day is intended to achieve for new students as they embark on their academic journeys at Warren Wilson:
“For our new students, this day is an opportunity to get to know their new community,” she said, “laying the groundwork for their civic engagement over the next four years.”
Based on their work on Service Day 2011, the newest contingent of Warren Wilson students certainly seems headed in the right direction.
Here’s a link to a WLOS-TV story on Service Day: http://t.co/teIJ4kW .