King Day of Service Highlights Mason’s Commitment to Community and Partnerships

Posted: January 12, 2010 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: January 11, 2010 at 6:12 pm

By Catherine Ferraro

Martin Luther King Jr. greeting friends and well-wishers during the March on Washington, August 1963. Photo courtesy of Ollie Atkins Photograph Collection, Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries

As a university that integrates community service into the academic experience, Mason encourages students, faculty and staff across all disciplines to volunteer their time to make a difference locally and globally.

These efforts are often coordinated by Mason’s Center for Leadership and Community Engagement (CLCE), which is collaborating with Volunteer Fairfax this year to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. The two entities have organized Give Together: A Family Volunteer Day for Monday, Jan. 18. The event will take place on the Fairfax Campus in the Johnson Center’s Dewberry Hall from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

On this day, Mason families and members of the wider community are invited to participate in multiple service projects that will benefit local nonprofit organizations. Projects are geared toward elementary school-aged children and their parents, but may be suitable for younger children with parental supervision.

In the past, CLCE has worked with Volunteer Fairfax on several other projects, but this is the first time they have collaborated on the Family Volunteer Day event. Both CLCE and Volunteer Fairfax are dedicated to finding meaningful ways for citizens to give back to their local communities and hope the event encourages young people to become lifelong volunteers.

“The goal of Family Volunteer Day is to concentrate on encouraging families to engage in a service activity together,” says Heather Hare, associate director of CLCE. “At the same time, it demonstrates Mason’s commitment to community partnerships.”

She adds, “Because there is not a strong emphasis on service for elementary school-aged children, we hope to instill in them the value of meaningful community service at a young age.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

Early on in the planning process, Volunteer Fairfax requested proposals from local organizations that were interested in participating in the day of service and had a service project that lent itself to child-parent interaction.

The organizations that will participate in Family Volunteer Day are

  • Fairfax County 4-H, which offers fun programs to help young people learn the skills they need to prepare for their futures. 4-H will provide families with a station to make chew toys for dogs in local animal shelters.
  • Fairfax Area Christian Emergency and Transitional Services Inc. (FACETS), which provides support to homeless individuals in Fairfax County. FACETS will provide materials for snack and activity bags for families to decorate and assemble. The bags will be distributed to children whose parents visit the FACETS office for assistance.
  • Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, which offers day camp and sports and fitness programs for all ages. The JCC will have a station for families to make beaded bracelets that will be given to hospital patients.
  • Orphan Foundation of America, a national foundation that provides support for foster teens through scholarships, internships, mentors and care packages. The foundation will have a table for families to make Valentine’s Day cards to be included in care packages for foster youths.

At the end of the day, families can visit a reflection station where children can stop and think about the work they have done during the day, who they have helped and how they have made a difference. The children can write about their experiences on a display board as well.

“We hope this event serves as a reminder to families that there are simple things they can do that make a big impact on people’s lives,” says Samantha Watson, special events manager at Volunteer Fairfax.

“Mason’s commitment to community service makes the university the ideal partner, and I hope this becomes a regular event on which we can collaborate.”

Year-Round Commitment to the Community

In addition to collaborating with Volunteer Fairfax, CLCE helps match hundreds of Mason students with volunteer opportunities in the local community and helps integrate the importance of service into the classroom setting.

One of Mason’s most recent partnerships is with the National Energy Education Development Project on the “Go Green with Gunston” program. The program combines education and entertainment into a distinctive curriculum specifically aimed at teaching young children the benefits of sustainability and renewable energy sources.

Another community service project is Student Government’s “Witch Watch” program. During this annual event, students, faculty and staff members patrol Fairfax neighborhoods to protect trick-or-treaters and promote safety on Halloween night.

Patriot Pack Out, an annual recycling and community outreach initiative at Mason, collects clothing, electronics, working appliances and nonperishable food to donate to local nonprofit organizations.

To learn more about what Mason students, alumni, faculty and staff members are doing to make the world a better place, visit the Mason Makes a Difference web site.

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