As students return to classes, University faculty and staff are heading to walkathons , farms and food banks as part of a new program to get them more involved in the community. As part of the "Brown Gives 30 Days of Service" program, volunteers will log community service hours in the Providence area from Sept. 12 to Oct. 11.
Amy Umstadter, the chair of the President's Staff Advisory Committee, said the committee arranged to send volunteers to organizations that were particularly in need of help. For example, said Umstadter, when the SAC learned that the Rhode Island Community Food Bank was facing low food reserves, the food bank led the SAC to the Community Farm Group and to farms in need of volunteers.
Volunteers will also paint fences, help run a walkathon for Hasbro Children's Hospital, hold a campus-based food drive and work in the garden at School One, an independent Providence high school.
Umstadter, the assistant director of stewardship and events in the Office of Biomedical Development, said she did not know how many people have signed up for volunteer activities so far. Though the farms and School One all requested a set number of volunteers, the walkathon and the food drive both lack volunteer caps.
"Our goal is just as many people as possible," Umstadter said, adding that the group would report numbers at the charge's conclusion.
The initiative, she said, was born of the current economic crisis. President Ruth Simmons and the SAC created "Brown Gives" as a way to help the local community.
A survey conducted in June showed that many faculty and staff members expressed an interest in service work. Umstadter said they believed people would be more likely to volunteer if a channel for service opportunities existed. The SAC began organizing with service providers while publicizing the event to faculty and staff in Brown Morning Mail, including links to sign-up pages.
The initiative was not open to students this year, Umstadter said, because other opportunities are available to them through the Swearer Center. Transportation considerations were also a factor, she added.
"We'll see if next year, if we get a really overwhelming response, if we might open it up to students," Umstadter said.
The SAC may also collaborate with other Brown committees in the future to organize community service.
The SAC has worked with Serve Rhode Island to encourage Brown community members to sign up for service opportunities with Serve Rhode Island, particularly if they are unable to participate in the "Brown Gives" initiative directly, Umstadter said.
For now, however, Umstadter views the initiative as a chance for University faculty and staff to help forge a stronger connection to the community around them.
"People should take this opportunity to connect with each other and the community in which we live," she said.