By Kim Corriher
In the past three months, Kevin Smith has learned just what Mae West was talking about when she said "too much of a good thing is wonderful."
Smith, Ohio University's assistant director for leadership and community service, began overseeing a new campus initiative during the winter quarter that pairs students with volunteer projects in Athens County and the greater Southeast Ohio region.
"The thought was to connect students with opportunities to make them knowledgeable about the needs within our community and in society," Smith said. "That thought apparently caught on."
The Community Service Project of the Week program started with only four student volunteers attending the first event, but eventually built enough momentum to outgrow its name.
"By the end of the quarter, we had so many student volunteers that we were going out to three or four projects each week, instead of just one," Smith said.
By March, the number of student volunteers jumped to between 40 and 45 each weekend.
"There is an assumption by some that college students don't really want to give their time," Smith said. "But programs like (Project of the Week) and events like last week's Athens Beautification Day are clear examples of how students do want to give their time and do want to show that they care."
The university's Student Senate organized the April 19 citywide beautification day, which included assistance from more than 200 students.
Smith and his colleagues in the Department of Campus Life are hoping to see the same abundant response from the Ohio University community next week as the school joins institutions, corporations and organizations across the country in celebrating National Volunteer Week.
President Richard Nixon signed an executive order in 1974 to create National Volunteer Week, established as an annual week dedicated to the celebration of service. This year, the week runs from April 26 to May 2, with events and volunteer opportunities scheduled throughout the week by the office of Campus Life.
According to Smith, it is not only important to celebrate this event because of its nationwide significance but to create a culture of service among students.
"Our approach to the national event is about awareness," Smith said. "We want to get individuals involved in the projects that are out there; we want to increase their knowledge about what they can do as students and as graduates after they leave Ohio University; and we want to have a real conversation about service."
While some of the events planned during the week are directly related to providing volunteer assistance, others encourage participation and activism.
"We are very excited about the two forums that we have planned," Smith added. "Specifically 'What can yOU do?' Is geared toward looking at what students here at OU can do to give back."
Scheduled events include:
- Saturday, April 26, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Convocation Center: Kidfest, an annual event designed to raise awareness about safety and other important children's issues. The event features many fun and educational activities for children and adults.
- Monday, April 28, 4 to 5 p.m., Cunningham Leadership Center: What can yOU do? A panel discussion about important issues affecting in Athens County. Representatives from Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Good Works will be among the speakers.
- Tuesday, April 29, 4:30 to 7 p.m.: Athens Public Library cleanup day. Volunteers will help file new entries as well as sort and stack. Volunteers are asked to meet at 4:30 p.m. in front of Baker University Center 355.
- Thursday, May 1, 4:30 to 8 pm.: United Campus Ministries Thursday Supper. The free meal is a weekly social event held to bring members of the Ohio University and Athens communities together for fellowship. The supper is held at UCM, 18 N. College St., Athens, Ohio. Donations are welcome.
- Friday, May 2, noon to 1 p.m., Cunningham Leadership Center: Hunger in Athens County: A brown bag discussion about the problem of food shortage in Southeastern Ohio.