Following a thankful message from Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and a charge to find their purposes through service from Belmont President Bob Fisher, students in Belmont’s Class of 2018 along with transfers students volunteered throughout Nashville through the University’s annual SERVE Project on Monday afternoon.
“This event has been going on at Belmont for at least 15 years. It’s so Belmont when our students go out into the community and serve. What I hope for you and for our community is that it will trigger an ongoing quest in you to find what you are uniquely made to do to serve others,” Fisher told 1,750 students before they departed campus for 13 sites across the city, including three Metro Nashville Public Schools and nonprofit organizations like Preston Taylor Ministries.
An annual “Welcome Week” tradition for more than a decade, SERVE provides a perfect tie-in to Belmont’s ongoing commitment to engage students in their community and encourage the values of service on both a local and global level.
“I am very pleased to be here and welcome you. You are all geared to serve our city,” said Dean. “Tennessee is the volunteer state, and Belmont and the city of Nashville have a strong tradition in giving back. When you go out and volunteer, please know that we appreciate that. There is nothing more valuable you can do in college than to get involved and understand how the city works.”
In West Nashville, 20 students sorted and bundled school supplies for LP PENCIL Box, a nonprofit organization that allows Metro school teachers to pick out $600 worth of pencils, rulers, backpacks, highlighters and other supplies every year. Program Manager Kerry Conley said 72.4 percent of Metro students live at or below the poverty line and are unable to purchase their own supplies, so often times Metro teachers spend $500 of their personal funds to help their students.
“I am the only staff, so the only way we can get anything done is through the work of volunteers,” Conley said. “It’s great to have the University and anybody that can come and help. It’s good for the students to know the need for Nashville and what’s going on in the community. If it were just me, it would take me weeks to get through all of these donations.”
Freshman Emilee Luken said although she is from Nashville, she did not realize nonprofit organizations like LP Pencil Box existed and needed volunteers.
“The cool thing about Belmont is that they are into service, and it brings you together,” said freshman Hannah Brown, of Dallas, Texas, while binding packs of No. 2 pencils together with rubber bands. “We’ve just been able to hang out. Serving together brings people together.”
Meanwhile over at Tennessee Voices for Children in South Nashville, students removed old wallpaper and glue from walls, preparing the nonprofit organization for new wallpaper.
At other sites across the city, the new students packed food, toiletries and cleaning supplies for needy families, cleaned facilities, removed graffiti and painted walls, among other community service projects.
“We are so grateful to the community for allowing us to partner with them for SERVE Day. It is a wonderful gift they provide our students by helping them think beyond themselves to the greater community around them,” said Director of Service Learning Tim Stewart. “While this one day of service won’t change the world, it will plant seeds in our students and the community that we will work together to cultivate and turn into a bountiful harvest.”