Giving back to the greater community
Students help out in the local community on Colby Cares Day, an annual event organized by the Colby Volunteer Center.
“In some respects, I wish that Colby was still in the town of Waterville instead of on the Hill,” Colby Volunteer Center (CVC) co-director John Perkins ’11 said. The CVC works to bridge the distance between the College and the town, as its mission is to provide Colby students and faculty with the opportunity to donate their time to various organizations that serve the needs of those in the Waterville area.
The center was founded after fraternities and sororities that had spearheaded community service on the Hill were disbanded in 1984. Today, CVC co-directors Julia Bruss ’11 and John Perkins ’11 and assistant directors Dana Roberts ’12 and Ricky Schwartz ’11 oversee 13 volunteer programs that focus on hunger and homelessness, wellness, animal welfare and education.
“Our mission is essentially to provide resources to meet the most pressing needs of the greater Waterville community,” Bruss said. “Every time we think of taking [a project] on or every time we advertise something, we always make sure it aligns with our mission.”
In addition to helping bridge the gap between the College and the town, “volunteering through the CVC promotes an aspect of self-development—volunteers learn about themselves through their work,” Perkins said. Both Perkins and Bruss have been involved in the CVC since their first year at the College.
“While we are physically separated from Waterville, it can be interesting and enlightening to get off the Hill,” Perkins said. By becoming involved in the community, Waterville “becomes more than just a city filled with unfamiliar faces,” Perkins said. “It becomes the local soup kitchen where you can cook meals with Sam, a family doctor.” You get to know “Pam, the retired schoolteacher who walks dogs at the Waterville Area Humane Society every Tuesday,” Perkins said.
In addition to managing the thirteen volunteer organizations, which are each run by a group leader, the CVC coordinates several one-time events throughout the year. On October 30, it is co-sponsoring Hardy Girls Healthy Women’s 5K Walk.
The theme of this year’s walk is ‘Bringing Scary Back.’ “The event aims to desexualize Halloween costumes and change what is expected of girls to wear on Halloween,” Perkins said.
On October 31st, the CVC invites Waterville residents to the Hill to trick-or-treat and participate in other themed activities on campus as part of the club’s annual Halloween Extravaganza.
In most cases, the children who come to the College on Halloween don’t get the opportunity to go trick-or-treating in their own neighborhoods. While students certainly get something out of the experience-–who wouldn’t enjoy the sight of small children in Spiderman and Cinderella costumes sprinting from dorm to dorm-–“the CVC wouldn’t host an event to benefit Colby,” Bruss said. “We would instead host an event at Colby to benefit someone in need.”
For example, the CVC coordinates Colby Cares Day, an event held each spring in which masses of Colby students are dispatched to various locations in the greater Waterville area to help in any way they are needed. The supervisors at these locations have come to eagerly anticipate the extra help.
“[The contacts] want to know when we are coming, and then afterwards we get a ton of positive feedback about the impact that Colby students are making, and how [the contacts] want to set it up already for next year. The fact that a lot of these things are recurring is very telling.” Many students, including entire sports teams, volunteer at the same site each year, and members of the local community both acknowledge and appreciate their dedication to community service.
Volunteering through the CVC is important because it is a way for students and faculty to give back to the community upon which they depend.
“We depend on Waterville in many ways, and sometimes we just don’t see that,” Perkins said. “We don’t see what happens to our dishes, but there are always clean dishes waiting and ready for us come dinnertime. We don’t see what happens to the mess [we] make trying to wax [our] skis in the bathroom, or how the grass always seems to be at the perfect length for a Frisbee game. Residents of Waterville are the invisible caretakers [of the campus]. They do so much for us. By volunteering in the area, we can give back to a community that has given us so much.”