On a balmy September morning, a group of University of Mary Washington students gathered on Ball Circle. Donning shirts emblazoned with a quote from author James Baldwin – “The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in” – they were ready to make a difference.
“It’s still important to volunteer and serve people in need, even in a pandemic,” said senior Elizabeth Lopez, who was among the 100-plus students who participated in Saturday’s Into the Streets. Hosted by Community Outreach and Resources, or COAR, the annual tradition provides an array of service projects, including weeding gardens, picking up trash and organizing the Eagle Resource Closet for students in need. A group also used chalk to adorn Campus Walk with inspirational messages promoting UMW’s spirit of service.
“Mary Washington students returned to campus with such a renewed sense of commitment to serve those in our broader Fredericksburg community,” said Sarah Dewees, associate director of UMW’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE).
Currently enrolled in a course on food justice, senior Purnaja Podduturi showed students how to snip and sew old COAR T-shirts into reusable grocery bags for the Fredericksburg Food Co-op, which opened to the public earlier this year.
“The class and the co-op have both opened my eyes to issues like poverty, racism and environmentalism,” she said, “which intersect with food insecurity and access to healthy food.”
Several students met in the University Center to spend the morning sorting books, which will then be loaned to local residents through an ambulance that UMW junior Hollis Cobb refurbished into a mobile library. Every Saturday, the Bookmobile will park next to Hurkamp Park, where families visiting the farmer’s market can browse and borrow favorite stories.
Sophomore Kylie Jackson led one of several projects geared toward picking up litter and beautifying outdoor spaces on campus and in the Fredericksburg area. “Despite the pandemic struggles we’re all experiencing, we can’t forget about taking care of the environment,” said Jackson, whose team picked up almost as many discarded masks as cigarette butts.
A first-time Into the Streets volunteer, junior Cassidy Richardson, who serves on COAR’s student council, spent the morning packing 200 bagged lunches for Micah Ecumenical Ministries to feed the area’s homeless residents.
“You never know what someone is going through and even the smallest act can mean so much,” Richardson said. “I truly believe that continued outreach will provide the support, connection and hope that people need to get them through the pandemic.”