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Davidson Volunteer Week: Q&A with Alumni Service Leaders

Group of Davidson alumni volunteers with Trees Atlanta
Alumni volunteers with TreesAtlanta

Davidson Volunteer Week kicks off this Saturday, April 9. In a recent email, current Alumni Association Board President Greg Murphy '85 called upon alumni to get involved, noting "we are living out Davidson's mission to live a life of leadership and service by volunteering our time to help others." The week is part of the DavidsonServes effort, which aims to engage alumni around the country in service activities throughout the year.

In this question and answer piece, Sue McAvoy '77 and Emily Willeford Christy '99, from the Atlanta and San Antonio chapters, respectively, share their thoughts on service.

Q. Why are you passionate about service opportunities in your community?
Sue: I'm passionate about serving others because I'm thankful for all my many blessings and want to express my gratitude by helping those in need. I'm also partial to volunteering through DavidsonServes because I love meeting Davidson folks and enjoy developing relationships by hammering, weeding and painting together.

Emily: San Antonio is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, but even with more than 2.3 million people living in the area, it often feels like a small town. We are invested in making our city a better place for everyone, and I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the challenges and opportunities we face through service.

Q. Briefly describe the effort(s) you've been most closely involved in recently.
We began Atlanta activities during last year's inaugural Davidson Volunteer Week in April, mulching with TreesAtlanta, where former Davidson Board of Visitors Chair Ed Dobbs '71 serves on the board of directors. Our next event was held last October, where we spruced up the building/grounds of Clifton Sanctuary Ministries, Atlanta's first homeless shelter and where Gordon Slade '70 serves as volunteer business manager. In February, 36 of us sorted and packed food at the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

Emily: The San Antonio chapter served at the San Antonio food bank last April. We had 10 alumni and parents help the Food Bank volunteers package 29,000 pounds of cabbage! The San Antonio Food Bank provided 62 million pounds of food to 16 counties throughout Southwest Texas in 2015. On April 9, we will be serving breakfast for homeless individuals at the Haven for Hope kitchen.

Q. What advice would you offer a chapter or alumni who are just starting to explore service opportunities?

  • Gather a few folks who share your zeal for service and enjoy the brainstorming process of crafting a year-long plan for your chapter (although there is lots of energy around Davidson Volunteer Week, it's fun to schedule events all year long).
  • If possible, serve non-profits where Davidson alums are involved as either staff members or board members.
  • Seek diversity of types of events (working on issues of hunger, education, beautification, housing, etc.) and location of events (if you're in a large metro area or are a central spot for a regional chapter).
  • Reach out to your chapter president(s) and other volunteer leaders (class secretaries, Fund for Davidson callers, admissions liaisons, etc.) for advice about groups to serve and organizations where Davidson alums might be involved. Also enlist their aid if you need help with recruiting volunteers. The more alumni investment, the better!
  • Make sure your event planning team includes both those who enjoy details and planning (those gifts will ensure successful and fun events) as well as creative folks (they may have fresh ideas, such as considering different ways to serve in a year-round way).
  • Be intentional about reaching out to our newest graduates, and also plan events where alums can participate with their children. It provides a great family bonding opportunity, and children often need to get community service hours for their school requirements.
  • Include a Wildcat bonding lunch after your morning of service.

Emily: Look for service opportunities that are conducive to group interaction -- and are family-friendly if possible -- rather than individual participation. Also, look for opportunities on various days of the week at various times to accommodate different schedules.

Q. Why do you feel service is an important piece of the Davidson alumni experience?
Many of us were attracted to Davidson because of its mission -- to assist students in developing humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds for lives of leadership and service -- so it's natural that alumni would want to continue living out that charge once we graduate. DavidsonServes offers a way to both quantify existing volunteer efforts and offer new ways for us to serve.

Emily: In addition to service being such an integral part of the Davidson culture, these events also create a situation in which alumni can interact in a way that is personally meaningful, and meaningful to the community.

For more information or to register for this year's volunteer week, contact the Alumni Relations Office at