Our good friend and founder, Thomas Jefferson, said, “I acknowledge that such a debt [of service to my fellow-citizens] exists, that a tour of duty in whatever line he can be most useful to his country, is due from every individual.” In his eyes, community service was an integral part of the nation, something that every person should perform to advance their community, and surely, he would want the same for the students at his University.
Luckily, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of ways to give back at UVa every year. There’s no shortage of volunteering opportunities (there’s actually an incredible organization dedicated to it), philanthropy events, service-driven trips, and much more to make sure that each and every student has his or her opportunity to give back to the community.
Not only will community service help out in the UVa and greater Charlottesville communities, but it’s an opportunity to make new friends, have new and unique experiences, and engage in traditions at UVa that serve great purposes.
Here are the big events and organizations to look out for during your first year:
- General philanthropy events. Nearly any CIO (remember that great acronym?) I can think of has at least one philanthropy event during the year. They’ll usually center around donating money on behalf of the organization, paying an entrance fee, or buying something from the CIO where the proceeds go to the organization. Keep an eye out for emails, flyers, chalking, tabling, and more methods of advertising to stay in the loop about what’s going on. My guess is: if you wanted to, you could likely attend at least one philanthropy event every week during your four years at UVa. That’s how many there are.
- Madison House. This organization works to connect student volunteers and organizations with the Charlottesville community. There are daily opportunities posted, as well as a number of different committees within Madison House that help with specific needs in the community. If you’re looking for a place to start volunteering, but don’t know what you want to get involved with, start with Madison House.
- Pancakes for Parkinson’s. This event usually happens around Homecomings weekend, and it’s HUGE. You’ll hear about it on the first day you arrive, and the marketing for the event is everywhere. The premise: come out to the event (usually held on the Lawn), eat some free pancakes, become educated about Parkinson’s Disease, and collect donations to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Also, pick up one of their awesome t-shirts.
- Trick or Treating on the Lawn. Though this was covered in the UVa Traditions post, it’s also one of the largest community service events we hold. TOTotL brings the entire Charlottesville community together. Parents, children, and students all work together to put on one of the largest, most sugar-packed trick-or-treating events around Halloween.
- Lighting of the Lawn. Lighting of the Lawn was also covered in the UVa Traditions post, but it deserves repeating because of its philanthropic mission. This past year, all of the proceeds from the event went to the Wounded Warrior Project to return to the roots of Lighting of the Lawn. Prior to that, Lighting of the Lawn benefited MACAA, which worked to help members of the Charlottesville community pay their electricity bills during the holiday season (and it also led to a great slogan: “Lighting up the Lawn, Light Up a Life”). Though the event is free, donations come in from various organizations, and attendees have the option to donate on the night of the event.
- Dance Marathon. This event happens in the Spring Semester, and all of its proceeds go to the Children’s Miracle Network. At the event, participants must stay on their feet for a given length of time (16 hours, I believe), and they receive donations from individuals and organizations that they contact prior to the event. Additionally, the event is run like a carnival, with plenty of awesome activities and fun for all in attendance, even if you aren’t dancing.
- Relay for Life. You’re probably familiar with Relay for Life, as it’s one of the most popular national charity events. Relay happens in the Spring, and it raises money for cancer research, education programs, and advocacy and services for cancer patients. It’s much less of a relay, more of an “all-night party. It is the longest cancer-fighting party on Grounds.” The work they do is incredible, and each year, they break records for donation collection rates.
- Alternative Spring Break (ASB). ASB finds opportunities outside of the UVa and Charlottesville communities, gets students organized together, and organizes trips to these locations to perform the service projects. There’s an application process for each trip, but once you’re in, you get to meet many new friends, have a unique Spring Break experience to travel and extend your cultural knowledge, and do something meaningful for the global community.
- Tutoring with Charlottesville schools. The Charlottesville Public Schools are always looking for help and volunteers from the University, with it being so close and such a great resource. If teaching’s in your future, or you just enjoy working with students, you can definitely find an opportunity to connect you with Charlottesville schools.
This is only a very, very short list of all of the great volunteer and community service opportunities at UVa, and if you’re looking for different and additional ways to give back, check out this great list put together by the University.