On Monday, January 16, more than 40 WVU Tech students, staff and faculty gathered on the Beckley campus. After a brief meeting, the group received their assignments and broke off into teams, heading out into the Beckley area to spend their day off giving back to the community.
The group tackled five community projects in the region in honor of the national Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.
“The MLK Day service projects are opportunities for students to interact with the Beckley community, build civic responsibility and do something for others,” said Candice Stadler, director of WVU Tech’s department of Career Services and Cooperative Education.
“Since a major component of Dr. King’s work was to alleviate poverty, we were very intentional in setting up the projects with organizations that work to alleviate poverty in southern West Virginia,” she said.
The Women’s Resource Center in Beckley is a non-profit that provides shelter, counseling, advocacy and other services for those impacted by domestic and sexual violence in Raleigh, Fayette, Summers and Nicholas counties. WVU Tech volunteers spent their time helping staff clean, organize and perform general maintenance work at the center, which is the largest of its kind in the state.
“Any time you can get college students invested in the community and lending their time and talents to someone less fortunate is a good thing,” said Dee Sizemore, who serves as the WRC’s public relations and volunteer coordinator. “Community service opens up opportunities and eyes for people. Until you put yourself out there, you don’t realize what kind of difference you can make in the world.”
Volunteers also worked for the WRC at a local antique shop, Tickety Boo Mercantile. The business provides storage space for items donated to the WRC and will serve as a storefront for clients transitioning out of the shelter. Volunteers there helped to sort and inventory donated items and set up the new space.
“It’s an empowering thing. With this new setup, clients in need get to go into the space and have choices as they select items that will help them get reestablished.”
Hannah Gibson, a junior biology major from Frazier’s Bottom, West Virginia, helped out at the shop. She said it was eye-opening to think about how something so simple as dishes or home décor items are taken for granted in everyday life.
“I think it makes you a well-rounded person to be in this environment to see what it’s like for other people in the world. I want to go into social work, even though I’m studying biology. This kind of atmosphere make me want to use my skills to help people,” she said.
Another Beckley-area organization, One Voice, maintains a community closet that provides essential items like clothing and blankets to people in need. The group also runs a backpack program called Food for Angels that sends non-perishable food home with low-income elementary school children from three of the region’s schools. Volunteers from WVU Tech helped to organize donated items for the community closet, packed snack boxes for the Food for Angels program and provided help with general maintenance and organization.
A group of volunteers also met at the Pine Haven Center emergency shelter to provide general help with maintenance, painting, cleaning and organizing. The center offers shelter and support services to the region’s homeless population.
The WVU Tech women’s soccer traveled south of Beckley to Mullens, West Virginia to lend a hand at the Itmann Food Bank. The team helped to organize and inventory donations for the bank, which services the Wyoming County region.
Tyler Graves, a health services administration major from southern Maryland, was part of the group.
“We’re very privileged with what we have, and it’s a humbling experience to see what other people go through and at the same time realize what you can do to help,” she said. “It shows us that there’s always something we can do. I think it’s also important to show how we can make a positive impact on the community as a school.”
Stadler agreed that the sense of community is an important part of the university’s transition to the Beckley area.
“It is important for WVU Tech to be involved in the greater Beckley community. This is our community. We contribute to its overall health and wellbeing, so what better way to begin being a part of Beckley than through service,” said Stadler.
WVU Tech has increased efforts to keep students engaged in the community, and the day’s projects were a component of that push. The projects also contributed to WVU’s Million Hour Match initiative.