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DavidsonServes: National Volunteer Week and Beyond

Davidson College aims to prepare students for lives of leadership and service, and alumni service is a cornerstone of the Wildcat community. With National Volunteer Week only a few weeks away, April 9-17, 2016, alumni are encouraged to think about ways they may continue or jumpstart their own service in their communities.Raleigh chapter Habitat work

For the Triangle area of North Carolina, a combination of the Raleigh and Durham/Chapel Hill chapters, volunteers plan to build on past successes to make an even bigger difference this year. They have established a focus on food and hunger with the Stop Hunger Now organization and the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, and they plan to expand their outreach in the areas of housing and education through programs like Habitat for Humanity and Communities in Schools. At one of the Stop Hunger Now events, participants ranged from 1957 graduates to future Wildcats.

George Shaw '68 is the service chair for the area and a volunteer leader around alumni service conversations.

"Our area is large, and we want to expand our footprint," said Shaw. "This also makes it easier for more people to participate. If opportunities are convenient to where they live or work, they are more likely to show up."

Leaders in the Triangle have advice for alumni and chapters just starting to get their feet wet in the world of service:

  • Take your passion, and talk to your alumni president or service chair. If there isn't one, think about starting it!
  • Build a core team of committed volunteers who can take the lead and expand the group's outreach.
  • Understand what organizations really need. An organization focused on hunger may need items for the food pantry, or they may need a warehouse organized or cleaning to be done. The obvious service project isn't always the one that helps the most.
  • Get to know recent alumni who have moved to your area. They are eager to get involved and find their network.
  • Seek out alumni with children who have service obligations. This is a great way to satisfy those requirements and be a part of the Davidson community.
  • Build relationships with organizations and continue going back to the same places again and again. Davidson becomes a partner in their work, and it builds a closer connection.
  • Connect with alumni and service chairs in other chapters, and learn from their experiences. They may have developed projects that would work well for other areas. 
  • Think about a service as a year-round initiative. It isn't a "one and done" effort. Organizations need help every day.

Mackenzie Warren '10 has been involved in service since graduation.

"All of the colleges I considered were oriented toward service," she said. "As an alumna, it can be a little more difficult to find service opportunities, but I've found that alumni service as part of a chapter is a great way to create a network wherever I go. I've moved from Washington, D.C. to Durham, and the continuity is so important to me. It's awesome to connect with other alumni in an area and to expand my understanding of needs in my community." 

National Volunteer Week is one opportunity to get involved in service, but the Davidson family is encouraged to see this week as part of a greater initiative: DavidsonServes. Building upon the service work of students through the Center for Civic Engagement, DavidsonServes invites alumni to lead and participate in service work in their local communities or with other alumni through organized chapter events. Its mission is to commit alumni to sustained civic engagement efforts instead of one-time projects. Whether it is volunteering one's time and expertise to address hunger and homelessness, children's literacy, political issues impacting local communities, or environmental sustainability and stewardship, Davidson alumni are committed to making the world better in meaningful ways.

"Volunteer Week is the focal point for alumni service, but it isn't the only thing," said Shaw. "The key is the importance of giving back to society. Davidson alumni have a passion for making the world a better place, and we need to build communities of interest to make things happen."

DavidsonServes grew out of conversations during the class of 1968's 45th reunion in 2013. The class established a goal to have at least 50 percent of the class involved in civic engagement by their 50th reunion in 2018. This charge to their own classmates has grown into a goal of inspiring the entire Davidson family to get involved and make a difference.

For more information about DavidsonServes or Davidson Volunteer Week, contact the Office of Alumni Relations at alumniservice@davidson.edu.