Mercer students seek ways to be active in community

jmink@macon.comAugust 23, 2013 

Justis Ward is at a new school in a new town, but he has a game plan for getting oriented: volunteering his time.

Ward, a freshman at Mercer University, was one of several students who dropped by Mercer’s volunteer fair Friday. As it continues to boost its community service efforts, the university opened its doors to local organizations, giving them a chance to interact with students and snag some new helpers.

The university invited about 40 organizations, from hospice to retirement homes to mentor programs, to set up tables in Penfield Hall.

The goal was to “display what the organization’s about and to recruit students as volunteers,” said Chelsea Flieger, Mercer’s community engagement coordinator, “and we’ve had a really great turnout so far.”

Lines of students made their way from table to table, grabbing brochures, chatting to representatives and checking out organization posters.

At the Mentors Project of Bibb County table, a student signed up for more information, while another chatted with recruiter Chelsea Flaum.

“College students are perfect for mentors,” Flaum said. “I am so amazed that there are so many great organizations here trying to get the word out.”

In the middle of the room, students sat at tables, using markers and construction paper to make thank you cards for soldiers.

“It’s important to let soldiers know we’re thinking about them,” said Rebecca Hutcheson, a junior, who says she enjoys community service.

“This is a great event for students to get involved in Macon, not just on campus.”

The volunteer spirit has been spreading across campus. In the spring, the university was one of 690 institutions across the country to earn a place on the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. Mercer was one of two colleges in Georgia to earn a spot with distinction.

“Mercer students have been consistently involved in their community and are becoming more and more involved,” Flieger said. “It’s particularly important for first-year students to plug into the community to find their niche. Volunteering with an organization ... can really make this place feel more like home.”

That is Ward’s goal as he gets used to a new home. The freshman stopped by the volunteer fair to gather community service ideas.

“I don’t want to sit in my dorm all day,” he said, “and Mercer has yet to not impress me in terms of their love for the community.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.


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