Under sunny blue skies, some UGA students, faculty and staff spent their day off work and class bettering the Athens community.
Hundreds of local volunteers worked at various project locations Jan. 19 during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Some service-minded individuals were clearing trails around Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School, others were beautifying the East Athens Community Center. There also were service projects cleaning up two area cemeteries.
Jazymyne Simon, a first-year UGA student, spent a portion of the day-which also was her birthday-near the Chase Street on/off ramps. There, volunteers clad in bright safety vests were picking up litter and digging holes to plant daffodil bulbs along the exits from the Georgia 10-Loop.
“It’s my birthday, and I figured I could either stay in bed or get out and do something,” Simon said. “It was worth getting up a little early to do this.”
Danny Bounds, senior coordinator in UGA’s Center for Leadership and Service, helped organize the university’s role in the Day of Service. He worked with people from 20 other community groups who came together to set up the day.
“(The Day of Service) brings out so many people-you get students, different schools members, baseball teams, churches,” Bounds said. “I really think this day encourages the community to stand up for Athens and really come together and work toward a common goal. I think that is very powerful.”
More than 80 UGA students and a total of about 600 volunteers participated throughout the city, according to Bounds. Nineteen UGA Service Ambassadors were among those who volunteered on the holiday.
Victoria Clarke, a first-year Service Ambassador, said working to plant daffodil bulbs gave her “a sense of community.”
“I wanted to make a difference,” Clarke said. “We’re a big university in a small town, and I feel like projects like this help bridge the gap between Athens and UGA.”
Clarke and Simon were among campus group members, local community organizations, students and Athens residents who came out in droves to honor the late civil rights leader by making a difference around Athens. A kickoff event for the day was held at Thomas Lay Park before volunteers set off to the various projects.
Bounds said that students at the university tend to “stick to the UGA bubble” of the campus and downtown areas. One of the benefits of the service projects, he said, is to get students involved in the community and working with others they may not come into contact with during their studies.
“We really like for students just to get out, meet other students who are passionate and interested in serving, but also serve with community members and others from around Athens,” he said. “It brings different people from all different backgrounds and organizations together.”