One day in 2013 a young woman walked out of an abusive relationship and into the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter. She had a job, but no one to watch her five children while she was at work. Shelter Executive Director Betty Palmer knew she had to keep the mother employed, so she turned to Colby.
Ways to Give
Whether it’s time or money, Colbians give. It’s just what we do. And this season of giving is the perfect time to support the Colby Fund.
“We put out an all-call, and student volunteers just rolled in here to help her take care of her children. It was wonderful.”
Palmer said Colby students were at the shelter every day watching the children, often until late in the evening. They sang songs, played games, and eventually said goodbye when the mother found stable housing for her family. Palmer said that family is doing well today, thanks in part to those volunteers.
“Without Colby students we couldn’t have stabilized that family,” she said.
Volunteering is big at Colby. Sixty-three percent of students volunteer through Colby programs including the Colby Volunteer Center, Colby Cares About Kids, and Operation: IMPACT. Last year they contributed 32,729 hours of service valued at $657,852 to area communities. Because those numbers don’t take into account the volunteering students do through athletics or on their own, their actual contributions are even higher.
Colby’s Culture of Caring
Why are Colby students so service-minded? There are many reasons, but one of the most commonly offered explanations is that it just comes naturally to them.
In late November Shayla Williams ’16 spent a Sunday in Freedom, Maine, clearing a trail through a forest owned by a land trust. She wasn’t getting paid, but she was surprised to be asked about volunteering.
“I don’t really even think of it as volunteering when I do things like this. I just think of it as something fun I’d like to do,” she said. “Then, someone else says, ‘Oh, you’re a volunteer.’”
As a high school student, Williams organized a cleanup day in her hometown of Colton, N.Y., and prepared free dinners for community members. Alice Elliot, the Goldfarb Center’s advisor to the student-directed Colby Volunteer Center, said many students build a strong service ethic before they arrive at Colby. It’s not uncommon for high schools to require students to do community service, and the habit often sticks.
Serving through Classes and Athletics
When they get to Colby, students find that academics and athletics can lead to service, too. Last year 15 faculty members from 10 disciplines delivered 27 civic engagement courses. Those courses pushed students to apply their academic learning in the community by volunteering and resulted in more than 4,752 hours of high-quality service contributed to the community. Coaches are also seeing the benefits of volunteering as a team-based activity that builds a positive image of Colby athletes. Women’s hockey players, including Katie McLaughlin ’15, teach young people to skate and prepare meals for those in need as part of the Evening Sandwich Program. Phil Klitirinos ’18, a men’s ice hockey player, is involved in Rising Readers. Through that program he tutors fifth graders at the Albert S. Hall School in Waterville.
Mary Dunn, the teacher whose students he works with, said Klitirinos and other Colby volunteers make a big difference for young people learning to read. She said having an adult work one-on-one with them is the best way for many of her students to learn and that they look forward to seeing those volunteers step into the classroom each week.
Making a Difference Beyond the Bubble
Volunteering also represents a welcome opportunity to collaborate with community members for many Colby students. By working with local organizations and people, students broaden their Colby experience while also helping others. Assistant Director of the Colby Volunteer Center Laurel Whitney ’16 said students often talk about the need to escape “the Colby bubble.” In addition to coordinating many of the volunteer activities at Colby, she herself volunteers at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta. But for her, service is about more than just getting off Mayflower Hill.
“It’s a very grounding thing,” she said. “If you’re involved, you’re part of something bigger than just going to school—you’re connecting with the community.”