Day of Service unites students and faculty

*This article has been corrected to show that the UAA Assembly, not the USUAA Assembly, organized the UAA Day of Service.

On Thursday, UAA hosted its third annual “UAA Day of Service,” a day of giving back to the community. Through such efforts as the Bean-a-Fit soup drive and Have a Heart donation service, the UAA Assembly gave students and faculty the chance to do their part in bettering all of Anchorage. Cheesy names aside, the impact of these events was a resounding success for all involved.

The UAA Day of Service was born in 2009, as a response to Chancellor Ulmer’s campus-wide challenge to serve the community. On the day of his Inauguration, President Obama issued a national call to action.

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility—a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly… This is the price and the promise of citizenship.”

Chancellor Ulmer capitalized off this speech, calling the community to action.

“Please consider what you can do to serve—not just for a day or a month but for the whole year!” she said. “I hope the UAA community will join me in making 2009 a year of service.”

The UAA Assembly, which is a group of faculty, students and staff, stepped up to this challenge and organized the annual UAA Day of Service as a way for the student population to contribute. The drive has increased each year, culminating in this year’s grand success.

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Students passing by last Thursday would have seen the rows of tables adorned with the steaming bowls of soup as hungry patrons happily dug into the delicious food, and student servers worked tirelessly to dole out large vats of the stuff.

Meanwhile, more tables were set up to accommodate the vast amounts of donation boxes being given to the cause; the heaps of brightly colored and incredibly decorated packages looking like Christmas come early. Smooth jazz music played in the background, performed by the UAA Music Department, adding a festive and involved mood to the whole operation. Students came and went, chatting and eating and donating, and a buzz of giving filled the Student Union.

The proceeds were to benefit two nonprofit organizations—Bean’s Café and the Covenant House, both who work tirelessly to provide food and shelter for Anchorage’s homeless and needy.

The Bean-a-Fit drive was set up from 11 am to 1:30 pm as a lunch benefit in which all proceeds were donated to Bean’s Café. For $12, students and faculty could purchase a bottomless bowl of hearty soup and cornbread. In addition, coffee mugs, hats, and bags of beans (the actual type of bean remained questionable and unspecified) were available for purchase, and the money was given to Beans Café and the Covenant House.

According to Debbie Narang, a professor of Mathematics and one of the coordinators of the UAA Day of Service, more than 70 people came to eat soup and over $1,000 was raised.

The Have a Heart donation drive was established as a way to provide “heart” boxes of goodies to in-need teens and adults. UAA students, faculty, and organizations were encouraged to bring by decorated shoeboxes filled with basic necessities such as toothbrushes, socks, and hairbrushes for homeless and troubled individuals, and the turnout was simply outstanding. Groups such as Human Resources, the Athletics Department, the UAA Bookstore, and the Geology Club all donated boxes; the Bookstore alone donating 15 of these “heart” packages. All in all, over 160 boxes were collected, a record number for the event.

Prizes were awarded to the best looking and most decorative boxes. This was not an easy decision: “The decorations on the boxes were really good and really detailed,” said Brandy Rountree, a part of the UAA Social Work Coalition. “They really went above and beyond.” Cindy Douthit won the prize for the best individually designed box, while Human Resources won the best small box design and Athletics claimed the large box award. Gold stars all around.

In addition, the UAA Day of Service hosted a sock and glove drive at the Seawolves basketball game that evening, in which students could bring in new pairs of gloves, socks, and mittens to the Wells Fargo Sports Complex and donate them to Anchorage’s homeless. Narang says that at least 4 big boxes were collected, one stuffed with more than 100 pairs of clothing.

The event was widely considered a success based on the proceeds, donations and involvement contributed to the event, the 2011 UAA Day of Service can definitely be labeled a success. Haley Huff, a student volunteer for the UAA Center for Community Engagement and Learning, had a lot of praise for the event.

“It was great to see how involved the UAA community was in helping these in-need individuals—the faculty really came together and united for the greater good.” Rountree echoed her words, saying, “There was definitely a lot of contribution and public action. Faculty and staff involvement was at an all time high.”

Perhaps Narang, who sees the future of this event only getting brighter and brighter, summed it up best.

“It was a long day, but a good day.”