Thanks to tours, visits and orientation, incoming Georgia College freshmen are already pretty well acquainted with the campus they will soon call home.
But the college wants its newest students to experience more. To that end, Georgia College and Keep Milledgeville Baldwin County Beautiful (KMBB) have teamed up for a second year to organize GC Gives Day, an all-out effort to improve the community that also aims to encourage the students to remain involved throughout their years spent here.
Every one of Georgia College’s nearly 1,500 first-year students is expected to participate in addition to returning students, faculty, staff, and local volunteers. All told close, to 2,000 volunteers will be getting their hands dirty Saturday, Aug. 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Project sites for 2019 include the Oconee River Greenway, Baldwin County Animal Shelter, Life Enrichment Center, the local public schools, and churches.
“In four years we’ll be able to say that all of our students have been involved and engaged with our community,” said Kendall Stiles, GC senior director for community engagement. “I think that is a wonderful thing for a university to be able to say, and it’s also wonderful for residents of our community to be the benefactor of that. We’re really hoping that this first interaction with community partners will make students want to continue helping out at the sites and agencies.”
Some statistics from the inaugural effort provided by Georgia College include an estimated economic impact of about $111,000 in donated labor and more than 48 bags of litter having been collected. That’s 48 bags of trash no longer keeping the community from looking its best and brightest, something that is at the heart of KMBB’s mission.
“This is just an awesome opportunity for the community to come together and love on one another,” said KMBB Executive Director Ashley Bacon. “Even with all the stuff that’s going on in our community, this provides us a chance to hold hands, be nice, and just have a good time.”
Stiles says the idea for GC Gives Day first came from the college’s VP of student affairs, Dr. Shawn Brooks, who wanted to get incoming students involved in the community. Georgia College’s Give Center, the organization that presents students with volunteer opportunities, teamed up with KMBB, and the two parties set out to find enough work sites for more than 1,500 volunteers. Through their network of known nonprofits and faith-based organizations in the area, the committee locked down more than 40 sites for the inaugural event. This year, more than 50 have been selected.
“Our projects are very varied,” Stiles said. “We’re trying to touch every aspect of Baldwin County. Pretty much every nonprofit has been contacted and asked if they want to be a part of GC Gives Day.”
And although Georgia College students and staff will make up a majority of the workforce, anyone is invited to volunteer.
“It’s meant to make a big impact, and whoever wants to be a part of it is more than welcome,” Bacon said.
One site, both from last year and for this year, is the Chapel of All Faiths on the historic Central State Hospital grounds. As part of the Grove Events Center operated by Walter Reynolds’ company Capitol Ideas Consulting, the Chapel has undergone renovations to make it more attractive as an event space. GC Gives Day 2018 played a part in making that happen as 30 students painted the Chapel’s fellowship hall in addition to one of the building’s hallways.
“They did a tremendous job with helping us get that done,” Reynolds said. “It would have taken me and a handful of volunteers easily a week to do what they did in about three hours. They saved us a tremendous amount of time and effort, and we got to introduce them to a historic part of Milledgeville.”
GC Gives Day will return to the Chapel of All Faiths this year to paint the Catholic chapel upstairs and also do some light groundskeeping.
“I think it sets a powerful message for their students,” added Reynolds. “It tells them, ‘This is your community for the next four years, if not longer,’ and it gives them the opportunity to really see Milledgeville beyond the boundaries of Georgia College. It’s important that they see the community beyond their campus, and hopefully, get involved and stay involved.”
As one of the chief organizers, Stiles is confident that Gives Day is here to stay and continue what the college calls a “Great Community” movement.
“It almost felt like a tradition from day one, so yes this will be something we’ll continue into the future because it makes such a positive impact — not only on the students at Georgia College — but with everybody in the community when they see all the students out doing this work.”
For more information on GC Gives Day or to sign up to volunteer, visit www.gcgives.net.