Mercer students spend Saturday being good NeighBears

Along with improving a neighborhood near Mercer University, a major goal of the Be a Good NeighBear program is to get students connected with that community.

On Saturday, about 100 Mercer students volunteered in the Napier Heights neighborhood, which organizers defined as the area bordered by Napier, Montpelier and Pio Nono avenues on three sides and the university’s campus on the fourth.

“It’s very important,” said Dianne Fuller, executive director of Macon’s Fuller Center for Housing. “Sometimes it’s the first time they’ve served this way.”

The Napier Heights portion of the program was one of several locations, with almost 800 students serving overall. Fuller headed up an effort with her volunteers to clean up the streets, meet residents and work on three homes recently donated to the Fuller Center.

Two of those homes will be renovated and then sold to low-income families through a no-interest loan.

“Something they would never be able to afford otherwise and something they wouldn’t be able to get from a bank,” said Fuller Center board member Carol Brown.

The third house will be demolished so that a new home can be built in its place at a later date.

The street cleaning teams on Saturday were called Road Warriors, while the group canvassing the neighborhood to speak to residents was called the Good News Team. Fuller said that crew was seeking the input of those who live in the neighborhood on what work they’d like to see done.

“We want the community to give us their ideas, to be a part of this,” she said.

Fuller also noted that many of the students were freshmen, meaning it could be extra beneficial for them to be a part of volunteer work just across Interstate 75 from their campus.

“Hopefully, we can build a relationship with them so they can come back year after year,” she said.

Elizabeth Daniels, 18, was one such freshman, but this wasn’t her first time volunteering. She said she’s worked with similar programs in her hometown of Columbus.

“I think it’s really good for us, being young adults, to be a part of the world,” she said.

She also said that the odds were high she’d step in for similar work in the future. On Saturday morning, Daniels was part of a team cleaning up one of the homes near the corner of Holt and Beech avenues.

“Any opportunity that comes up, personally, I’ll make sure to jump on it, and I’ll be the first one to volunteer,” she said.

Candy Adkins, 55, said she’s lived her whole life in Macon, and she now lives on the same block that the Fuller Center crews were focused on. She said she also volunteers in the Bibb County school system and was happy to see college students being part of a good cause.

“I think it’s a good experience for them,” Adkins said.

Jeremy Timmerman: 478-744-4331, @MTJTimm