When volunteers arrived at her house on Sylvania Avenue in downtown Fredericksburg, Betsy Valentine greeted them with rakes, trash bags and fresh scones. Valentine says the service day symbolizes the commencement of spring in her gardens, and she signs her home up for the University of Mary Washington’s Good Neighbor Day each year.
“It has been great,” she said. “I absolutely love it!”
This past Saturday, more than 100 UMW students spent their morning – and used their muscles – giving back to the Fredericksburg community by participating in Good Neighbor Day, hosted by Community Outreach and Resources (COAR) for the third consecutive year. The daylong neighborhood cleanup has volunteers doing yardwork and other tasks in areas close to campus, with the intention of not only helping folks, but also fostering positive relationships between the University and the community.
“Students typically come back with smiles and the evident fulfillment from lending support and creating positive connections with the neighbors,” said UMW senior and COAR Staff Director Anika Hussain, who got involved with the group as a freshman. “I think it’s important to acknowledge that we as students are a part of the Fredericksburg community. Good Neighbor Day is such a wonderful opportunity to support the community in a way that benefits both students and local residents.”
In the College Heights and College Terrace neighborhoods surrounding the University, students complete a morning of free outdoor service projects for residents. Among this year’s projects, students worked with UMW Landscape and Grounds to conduct a campus-wide litter clean-up, and completed assignments at 18 local homes. Typically, tasks include raking yards, pruning plants, laying mulch and even painting sheds.
Junior Andrew Halmrast first heard about the volunteer opportunity from his Mary Washington golf coach, and he decided it would be a great way to help the community while giving the golf team exposure in the Fredericksburg area. He and about 10 other teammates spent the day near Sunken Road raking, pruning and scraping paint.
“There is something different about getting out in the community and helping the people around you,” Halmrast said. “It’s a way to build connections and network and really be a part of something bigger than yourself.”
After a productive morning, volunteers, community members and several furry friends gathered on Ball Circle at COAR’s barbeque, co-hosted with Canine Companions for Independence. Petting an excitable yellow Lab, first-time volunteer and Mary Washington sophomore Kate Seltzer reflected on her day, saying she’d like to participate again next year.
“Good Neighbor Day was a success,” said Sarah Dewees, associate director of the Center for Community Engagement, which houses COAR. “This event, and the community picnic afterwards, builds nice bonds between community members, the students and the University.”