(All gallery photos by Chad Osburn/UGA)
On Aug. 25, about 500 University of Georgia students participated in Dawg Day of Service, an annual event that allows students to serve the Athens-Clarke County community.
One of those service sites was Books for Keeps, an organization that has donated 450,000 books to children in kindergarten through 12th grade since 2009. A group of students helped with the Books for Keeps book sale by organizing books and helping customers.
For Marie Luz, a fourth-year early childhood education major, this was her second time volunteering at Books for Keeps, and her fourth time participating in DDOS. Luz chose Books for Keeps because she liked its mission, and she has been to one of its distribution events and seen its work in action.
“It’s fun,” she said about DDOS. “Once you graduate, it’s harder to get out there and volunteer. This gives you real-life experience that you can enjoy.”
Third-year biotechnology and pre-dental student Travia Clemons organized and sorted through book donations. This year was her first time participating in DDOS.
“Volunteering has a major impact on the community,” she said. “I want to be a citizen of Athens, not be here only for the university.”
Books for Keeps has a staff of three people. The organization focuses on preventive measures, helping students in the Athens-Clarke County school system have access to educational materials that will keep them from getting behind in school.
“Without volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” said Justin Bray, the program manager for Books for Keeps. “Their work is incredibly important. We wouldn’t have this location or have books organized if it weren’t for them.”
In addition to Books for Keeps, 18 other service points were a part of DDOS this year. Students removed overgrowth at the historic Brooklyn Cemetery, helped with outdoor projects at Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela and improved elderly citizens’ homes with Senior Home Assistance and Repair, along with many others.
Started in fall 2013, DDOS is part of ServeUGA, a group that promotes a culture of service at UGA and is under the Division of Students Affairs’ Center for Leadership and Service.
Sarayfah Bolling, the senior coordinator for community engagement, has been part of the support staff for two years.
“DDOS is unique, as it is the largest day of service offered at the University of Georgia designed to engage UGA students with the Athens-Clarke County community,” Bolling said. “We have over 500 people each year engage in service to support community organizations addressing issues of hunger, poverty, disabilities and environmental issues, just to name a few.”
Jen Rentschler, the director of the Center for Leadership and Service, has been involved with DDOS since its revival in fall 2013. It is one of the first big events for students to participate in, and members of student organizations join to bond as a team. But faculty, staff and alumni also join in the event to further the service mission of UGA.
“While earning a degree from UGA may be the reason why students are in Athens, connecting with the community and finding ways to contribute are often what make a student’s time at UGA more meaningful,” she said.