October 27, 2020

Service Project Takes UMW Students ‘Into the Streets’ to Build Community

From right to left: Caroline Mowdy, Paige Beidelman and Lance Whitesel spread mulch with Tree Fredericksburg on Saturday as part of COAR’s Into the Streets. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

From right to left: Caroline Mowdy, Paige Beidelman and Lance Whitesel spread mulch with Tree Fredericksburg on Saturday as part of COAR’s Into the Streets. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Early Saturday morning, a group of University of Mary Washington students gathered on Ball Circle. Wearing masks and social distancing, they came together on that crisp fall day to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, completing outdoor service projects for Into the Streets. The autumn tradition is hosted by UMW’s COAR (Community Outreach and Resources), whose mission is to provide structural support for community engagement, volunteerism and service.

“At a time when we are all unable to do many of the things that give us joy, satisfaction and focus,” said Leslie Martin, faculty director of UMW’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE),  “volunteering reminds us that we are all still connected and able to work together for the betterment of our shared community.”

The Center, which opened last fall, helps build bridges – and strengthen existing ones – between Mary Washington and organizations in the greater Fredericksburg area. Several of CCE’s community partners are navigating budget cuts and layoffs as a result of the pandemic, Martin said, so “our community needs us now more than ever.” Read more.

Quarantine Can’t Quash UMW’s Spirit of Service

Senior Heather Strother is among the Mary Washington students who are contributing in their communities this summer, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Friends of the Rappahannock volunteer, she’s participating in socially distanced river clean-ups.

Senior Heather Strother is among the Mary Washington students who are contributing in their communities this summer, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Friends of the Rappahannock volunteer, she’s participating in socially distanced river clean-ups.

Maria Rhoads was worried when COVID-19 first hit. But the UMW senior decided fear shouldn’t stop her from serving her community.

“I’m low risk as a young person,” said Rhoads, whose first task as a Medical Reserve Corps volunteer was assisting with safety and sanitation at a local voting precinct. “Because of everything that’s happening in our world, I think it’s important for someone like me to help others.”

While many people are staying home, the pandemic hasn’t paused UMW’s passion for service. From encouraging civic participation to feeding families in need to socially distanced river clean-ups, Mary Washington students and alums are stepping up, using the skills and experiences they’ve acquired in college to give back – both in person and remotely – to their communities.

“Our students went from doing their planned work on campus this spring to recognizing a need to help others in the face of the pandemic,” said Leslie Martin, faculty director of UMW’s Center for Community Engagement. “The ethos of civic responsibility has really taken root, and they’re finding new ways to support their neighbors even in situations of such uncertainty.” Read more.

Martin, Majid and Kolar Assist with Fredericksburg VA Main Street Survey

Center for Community Engagement Director Leslie Martin, Associate Marketing Professor Kashef Majid and Psychological Science Professor Dave Kolar recently assisted Fredericksburg VA Main Street with a survey that will be used to develop a “Reboot Downtown! Initiative.” Running through May 11, the survey will help businesses prepare their spaces and staff for important safety considerations when Downtown Fredericksburg does reopen, although there is no set date at this time. Read more.

Physical Distance & Social Solidarity: Greetings from Center for Community Engagement

A message from the Center for Community Engagement. 

Hi UMW colleagues,

How are you doing? We wanted to reach out, even during this confusing, unsettling, rapidly changing time – because we wanted to share ideas for you – and your students – about staying engaged with community & civic life. Believe it or not, there’s a lot going on that we can still attend to that can help strengthen our communities.

a. Social distancing: Of course the big one, the one on all of our minds, is complying with social distancing recommendations. We aren’t the public health experts – and we are confident you’re already getting this info other places. But as many a circulating Facebook post indicates, doing this work is a powerful form of solidarity.

b. Volunteering, just not in person: There are virtual volunteering opportunities, we’ve attached a document Volunteering in the Time of COVID 19 with some ideas & links on this front. And we have also been collecting suggestions for people who could use some kind words right now. For example – we are still gathering best contact information, but our social networks tell us that some of our residents at the Falls Run Nursing Home would like letters or cards, and there are efforts to send supporting words to our local hospital workers. (Please stay in touch with me or with Sarah if you want updates on this, as we get it.)

c. Supporting our community institutions: Many of our community institutions, including nonprofits and small businesses, need our help. In Fredericksburg:

• Micah Ministries has requested gift cards from grocery stores or cash donations: https://micahfredericksburg.networkforgood.com/projects/95553-covid-19-support. You can mail them gift cards for grocery stores (Giant is best) or donations to purchase them, they are doing that instead of community dinners. Mail them to Micah/Amy Ridderhoff, 226 Princess Anne Street, Fred VA 22401

You can buy gift cards to support local restaurants: Just google the restaurant, and see if they have online gift cards. For example, to help Orofino, visit: https://www.toasttab.com/orofino/giftcards.

d. THE CENSUS!!! As many of you know, Census mailers are arriving at homes right now – in the midst of a lot of change and confusion. We have a list of Frequently Asked Questions to help guide people. And in general, you can go to www.2020census.gov and complete the census on any computer, smartphone, or tablet (click on “If you do not have a Census ID, click here” if needed). Encourage your students, and their parents, to do so, following the guidelines outlined in the Frequently Asked Questions. The most important message: Students are counted where they reside on April 1, 2020 AND spend most of their time, which means that the majority of students should be counted in their college community.

e. Voting: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, voters are being asked for vote using an absentee ballot. If you are voting in the City of Fredericksburg, please follow these steps. For other voting districts, you can follow these directions, but choose your locality when filling out the online form.

f. Community partners, resilience, the awesome power of working together: I just wanted to share some info with you also about how some of our community partners are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. These are amazing groups, struggling with such challenging circumstances. This is in no way representative, but rather a snapshot of a corner of our communities:

*Our local emergency food systems have had to refocus & redirect. Many food pantries have had to close (but please check with the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank as they post a weekly schedule of operating pantries.) And I’m sure you seen the news of how school districts throughout our region – and our country – have worked to provide food to students in need while school is closed.

*People who are homeless – or at risk of becoming so – face particular challenges with social distancing. (Where can you go to be distant, and safe?) There’s been a concerted effort by our local homeless service providers, the Continuum of Care, and the State Department of Housing and Community Development to try to assist efforts to get the most vulnerable people without housing into motels; and to try to keep those only tenuously housed in their places until we come through this crisis.

*And partly to that end, there’s recognition that evictions & foreclosures are especially dangerous right now. The Supreme Court of Virginia declared a judicial emergency, calling for the postponement of non-emergency cases until at least April 6. This means we should not see new eviction filings, notices, etc. – hopefully preventing further vulnerability to homelessness.

This was way too long – please excuse me for carrying on! But these are times when the strength of our communities really shines through – and times when it is even more important to be sure our communities stay strong. Please let us know how we can help.

Best,
Leslie Martin & Sarah Dewees
Center for Community Engagement

Hundreds Depend on College Food Banks (WVTF)

Martin Discusses Eagle Resource Closet on WVTF

UMW first-years work with CCE Faculty Director Leslie Martin to stock the Eagle Resource Closet, a food pantry on the fifth floor of Lee Hall. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Leslie Martin, faculty director of UMW’s Center for Community Engagement and associate professor of sociology, was recently interviewed by WVTF 88.3 Radio IQ about food insecurity among college students and how the Eagle Resource Closet at UMW is addressing this issue.

Many schools around Virginia try to attract students from low-income families with scholarships, grants and loans – but with the cost of living going up, some of those kids run out of cash. That’s prompted universities to open food pantries.

In the attic of an administration building at the University of Mary Washington there’s a large room known as the Eagle Resource Closet. Professor Leslie Martin says you might not know it was there.

“It does provide a lot of privacy,” she explains.

And that’s by design. When the university questioned students they said anonymity was important, and a food pantry was definitely needed.

“We did a survey of students to see how much need there was, and actually almost a quarter of our student population reported being food insecure at some point,” Martin says. Read more.

Thank You for Your Eagle Resource Closet Contributions

UMW first-years work with CCE Faculty Director Leslie Martin to stock the Eagle Resource Closet, a food pantry on the fifth floor of Lee Hall. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Hello, UMW faculty and staff:

We wanted to express sincere gratitude for all of the help you have provided to the Eagle Resource Closet this fall. This was our first formal semester being open (though Gwen Hale and Rita Thompson pioneered this effort and served folks who needed help for ages prior; as do many folks around campus).

You all have donated clothes, food, toiletries, and time. THANK YOU. Students also have been pitching in all of the above. And the Alumni Board, Staff Advisory Council, and Dining Services have all run food drives. Parents have asked how they can help and so have alumni – there is interest and willingness, and we are so fortunate in this.

We also want to let you know about impact. Since we opened the ERC this September, over 100 visits have been made (according to our voluntary sign in sheet). We’ve had pages and pages of people expressing thanks and noting how much they actively need this resource. We echo these thanks.

If you want to make donations of goods – drop them at the Center for Community Engagement – UC Suite 320; we will shuttle them to the ERC. If you’d like to make a $ donation, our foundation account can be found here.

Wishing you all a good break. Looking forward to 2020 with you all.

Leslie Martin
Faculty Director, Center for Community Engagement

Service Project Takes UMW Students ‘Into the Streets’

UMW students gathered in front of the University Center Saturday morning before heading to service projects throughout the Fredericksburg community. Nearly 200 students participated in various volunteer activities throughout the city. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

UMW students gathered in front of the University Center Saturday morning before heading to service projects throughout the Fredericksburg community. Nearly 200 students participated in various volunteer activities throughout the city. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Early Saturday morning, a wave of 200 blue shirts emblazoned with the words “Little ripples make big waves,”stretched out across the front of the University Center. Wearing the shirts were UMW students gathered for Into the Streets, one of six annual events hosted by UMW’s COAR (Community Outreach and Resources), whose mission is to provide structural support for civic engagement, volunteerism and service.

Into the Streets offers students an array of volunteer opportunities – from landscaping to car washing – and a chance to check out Fredericksburg along the way.

“The goal is to encourage students to explore community service, get to know more about the area where we live, and to give back to the community,” said Sarah Dewees, associate director of UMW’s Center for Community Engagement. Read more.

Center for Community Engagement Opens at Mary Washington

Mary Washington freshmen team up with Tree Fredericksburg to mulch trees as part of the CCE’s Day of Service. Photo by Matthew Binamira Sanders.

Mary Washington first-years team up with Tree Fredericksburg to mulch trees as part of the CCE’s Day of Service. Photo by Matthew Binamira Sanders.

On a late August day, Mary Washington first-years were scattered throughout Fredericksburg, mulching gardens, planting trees and cleaning up along the Rappahannock River. Others cared for animals at the SPCA and worked on projects to help area seniors, sexual assault survivors and deployed service members.

These efforts were made possible by UMW’s new Center for Community Engagement (CCE), which officially launches today. Housed in the University Center, it will build bridges – and strengthen existing ones – between Mary Washington and the greater Fredericksburg area, showcase civic and community engagement opportunities and foster partnerships that enhance student learning and encourage positive social change. The Center fits into a larger national movement to make community engagement a top priority in higher education institutions.
Read more. 

Center for Community Engagement Formal Launch Sept. 9

The Center for Community Engagement will have a formal launch on September 9. The featured event is a talk by Dr. Andrew Seligsohn, president of Campus Compact, which supports higher education institutions across the nation as they work to increase collaborative relationships with their communities and support their students to commit to lives of active citizenship. Dr. Seligsohn’s talk will be held in the UC’s Chandler Ballroom at 4 p.m., followed by a reception and open house in the Center for Community Engagement suite (Suite 320, University Center). For more information about the launch or CCE, please visit https://academics.umw.edu/communityengagement/.