Students volunteer at local market
Molly Bennett '11 volunteers at Barrels Community Market for a couple of hours every Saturday.
Barrels Community Market, located on Main St. in Waterville, sells organic apples, fresh baked bagels, hand knit mittens and many other locally produced goods. Despite its wide variety of products made in Maine, what is perhaps most unique about the market is that (other than its two managers) its entire staff is made up of volunteers-–and many of these volunteers are students from the Hill.
“Barrels wouldn't be what it is without Colby students helping us on a daily basis,” Market Manager David Gulak said. Barrels has about 10 to 15 active student volunteers on its schedule at any given time. Each student volunteer spends about two hours a week performing tasks like stocking, cleaning, helping customers and preparing for events.
John Perkins ’11 has been volunteering once a week at Barrels for almost a year. As a volunteer, “my role is very similar to that of an employee at a small grocery store,” Perkins said—he stocks shelves, prices items and runs errands. “I break down a lot of cardboard boxes,” he said. “I’m basically a pro at that now.”
While the work that volunteers do at Barrels may seem menial, the volunteers see the value of their work and they enjoy doing it because they support the market’s mission. “I’m excited about [Barrels’] efforts to develop Waterville and really bring it together as a community,” Robyn Wardell ’11 said.
Wardell began volunteering at Barrels soon after it opened in the spring of 2009, and she helps to coordinate student volunteers at Barrels as a program leader with the Colby Volunteer Center (CVC) because she respects the market’s commitment to community development.
“[Barrels] not only supports local farmers, bakers and artisans,” Wardell said, “it also hosts public events for the community that bring people together in a common space to learn new things and discuss important goings on in the area.”
By supporting local farms, Barrels also demonstrates a commitment to environmental protection. Renzo Moyano ’14 started volunteering at Barrels a couple months ago, and he enjoys volunteering (and shopping) at the market because he likes knowing that he’s buying goods “made by Mainers who worked hard to cultivate and create these organic products, rather than buying something in Wal-Mart [that is] made and shipped from Indonesia,” he said. “Emissions from shipping alone are ridiculously high.”
Community development and environmental protection aside, however, “Barrels is just a fun place to be,” Wardell said.
Volunteering at Barrels is “a cool way to get off campus and try something different,” Perkins said. “It’s a great break from school work,” he added. Anna Leavitt ’12, who has been volunteering at Barrels since last spring, agrees.
“It’s just two hours a week,” Leavitt said. “I can afford to take two hours a week to help out.” Leavitt volunteers Saturday mornings from 10 a.m.-12 p.m., and she loves hanging out with Gulak and Mikey Owens, the market’s assistant manager.
“The organizers are really approachable [and] enthusiastic,” Wardell agreed. In addition to getting to know Barrels’ managers, student volunteers appreciate the opportunity to interact with people from Waterville and its neighboring towns, something not every student on the Hill gets to do on a regular basis.
“The patrons are always a colorful and surprisingly diverse group from the area who are great to talk to,” Wardell said. “I like meeting new people while I'm volunteering and hearing their interesting perspectives and ideas.”
“Before I started volunteering at Barrels I didn’t feel like a part of the local community,” Leavitt said. “Now I feel like I know a lot more about what is going on in town, and in Maine in general.”
The feeling is mutual, as locals enjoy talking with students from the College. In addition to the tasks that student volunteers perform, “the young energy and the social value that they bring to the market is also appreciated by our staff, customers, and other volunteers,” Gulak said. “We definitely notice a huge difference when Colby is not in session."