UC Serves volunteers clear brush from local gardens during a rewarding day of University of Cincinnati community outreach. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services 


 

Urban Impact

 

UC Serves reaches a milestone in its fifth year as nearly 500 faculty and staff lend a hand at more than 50 not-for-profits around the Tristate.

 

 

By Melanie Schefft
513-556-5213

Photos: Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services and provided

May 23, 2017

 

Buzz saws, scraping shovels and children’s’ laughter were heard loud and clear all over the Tristate during the recent May 18th "UC Serves" volunteer day of community engagement.

That's when nearly 500 University of Cincinnati faculty and staff devoted more than 3,400 collective hours toward volunteer service at more than 50 community venues and not-for-profits. Service activities included planting trees, playing with local school children, cleaning debris, packing diapers, painting walls and furniture and much more. 

“UC Serves has been a fantastic way for staff and faculty to lead by example and act as role models for our students in service to others,” says Fran Larkin, program coordinator for UC’s Center for Community Engagement, which co-hosted the event in partnership with Emerging Leaders in Student Affairs. “This event gives staff and faculty the opportunity to expand our campus networks, meet new people and deepen our connection to our colleagues and the community.”

 

UC Serves volunteer helps out at the Krohn Conservatory Butterfly exhibit during UC Serves Day. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
Two UC women stoop near the ground as they plant trees in a local Cincinnati nature garden. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

 

Win-Win

“It’s always a win-win when we team up to help promote a cross-campus diverse collaboration and share in the common experience of meaningful community engagement,” adds Larkin.

"UC Serves" builds on other university community engagement and volunteer efforts, including the seasonal Clean Up Cincy student groups working around the city.

And partners in the community also supported the UC volunteers. Several restaurants around the Tristate provided free lunches to all the volunteers in appreciation for their hard work.

“At Dumpsters.com we’re always excited to see UC’s faculty and staff, as well as students volunteering to keep the Cincinnati community clean,” says Sara Cifani, digital strategist for Dumpsters.com. “It was a pleasure to speak with Kyle Wilson, president of Clean Up Cincy, to learn more about the UC Serves faculty and staff event, as well as spread the word about the students’ hard work on our blog."

In lieu of building muscle, and because of the threat of rain, a number of UC “servers” stayed indoors to make phone calls for the American Cancer Society, pack boxes of books in preparation for a sale at the the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, help tidy up the home of Cincinnati's Madcap Puppets, and work (play) with elementary kids during their field day in local schools.

 

UC Clermont biologist Krista Clark holds a garter snake at the UC Clermont Community Garden.

UC Clermont biology professor Krista Clark makes a new friend while working at the college's community garden.  

 Lisa Ventre, director of photography in UC Creative Services slides down an inflatable slide with an elementary student on UC Serves Day.
UC Serves volunteer Jessica Phillips of UC Finance slides down an inflatable slide with an elementary student on UC Serves Field Day.

Between managing lines and helping kids on and off the inflatables, two UC servers couldn't resist the temptation to join in all the fun. 

 

Learn to Serve, Serve to Learn

Dodging the occasional raindrops, volunteers cleared local landscape beds of weeds and debris, and planted fruit trees in urban gardens. Others assembled a garden greenhouse from the ground up at the Pleasant Hill Elementary School.

"Our site manager said the greenhouse would not have been able to be built if it were not for our team being there that day," says Ryan White, associate professor of UC chemistry, electrical engineering and computer science. "We worked really well together and it was very rewarding to make that kind of impact on the community while also getting to know colleagues from across UC’s campuses."

While contributing to an institutional culture of service, faculty and staff also say they learn and benefit by giving back.

“I used to rehab homes with a good friend who taught me the ropes, so joining the team for the Habitat for Humanity build was a no-brainer,” says Mike Mitchum, interim director of UCIT’s technology team. “It was great to get out of the office and put those skills to work to help a deserving family build their home, and I will return to the site to help out again.”

Others sewed blankets for veteran patients at the Bluegrass Care Navigators Hospice in Florence, and some painted walls in local teen centers and homeless shelters on both sides of the river.

Volunteers also packed diapers for Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank while animal lovers spent the day sprucing up the walls and floors of an Adopt-a-Pet Center in preparation for an upcoming adoption event.

“I loved having the opportunity to answer phones and take pledges with [radio stations] WVXU and WGUC and can’t wait to go back!" claims Lacey Tomlinson, assistant director in UC Enrollment Management. "I have the pleasure of working with the students at UC through advising, but the opportunity to be able to support our larger community through non-profits like WVXU is just as important.” 

 

James Whalen, director of UC Public Safety helps spruce up the grounds around the Harriet Beecher Stowe House.

James Whalen, director of UC Public Safety, helped tidy the grounds around the Harriet Beecher Stowe House.

UC's Lacey Tomlinson wears a headset while answering pledges for WVXU.
UC Serves volunteers stand near paint cans as they prepare to paint on UC Serves Day.
UC Serves volunteers build a greenhouse at Pleasant Hill Elementary School.
UC Serves volunteers stand together in UC pose in the John P. Parker Elementary School gym.
UC Serves volunteers wrap packages of diapers for Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank on UC Serves Day. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Sevices
UC Serves volunteers lay carpet strips at Cincinnati's Urban Promise on UC Serves Day.

UC Serves volunteers helped out at more than 50 not-for-profit organizations around town. 

 

Paying It Forward

The annual "UC Serves" events can have long-lasting impact throughout the community. For instance, last year, UC volunteers worked with kids at Rolling Hills Elementary. At that time, several students became particularly excited after making volcanoes with paper supplies, watercolor paints and baking soda. Since then, their enthusiasm for science has grown, and the teachers remark how many of them look forward to becoming UC students when they grow up.

This is why several local schools plan field days around the annual UC Serves event. It provides a day of fun and learning for all.

 

UC Serves volunteer helps children at Woodford Paideia Elementary School create tie dye T-shirts during their field day event.

Tie-dyeing T-shirts at Woodford Paideia Elementary School .

 

Finding Friendships

“Each year, we consistently hear from both our staff and faculty volunteers and our community partners that UC Serves increases their feelings of connectedness,” says Heidi Pettyjohn, director of strategic priorities in UC’s Division of Student Affairs. “Our partners appreciate that the university invests in the city and the well-being of all of our citizens.

“Our volunteers feel more connected not only to the community, but also to each other, as many of us work side-by-side with colleagues who we would otherwise never have a chance to know.” 

UC Serves helps volunteers develop networks in the community and gain a greater understanding of, and ability to work with others who are different than themselves –– goals Larkin says align successfully with UC President Neville Pinto’s Next Lives Here strategic direction for urban impact. 

“When we work together in service we build stronger professional skills and we all benefit,” he adds.

 

For more information about UC Serves

 

Sneak Peak at More UC Serves Fun:

Two UC Servers watch closely as they paint a picnic table at the Gamble Nippert YMCA on UC Serves Day.

Kerry Overstake, assistant director, UC digital communications, and Andrew Higley, senior photojournalist, University Communications, paint picnic tables.

Members of UC Serves wear colorful hats and outfits while serving as judges for the Corryville Catholic School vocabulary parade.

UC Serves volunteers pose in their colorful apparel after performing as judges for the Corryville Catholic Elementary School vocabulary parade.

Three UC Serves volunteers watch a dance display from bleachers at John P. Parker Elementary School on UC Serves Day.
UC Serves volunteers hold a box of donuts before their day of work at Cincinnati's Gamble Nippert YMCA.
Kerry Overstake, assistant director of UC Digital Communications carefully paints a poolside picnic table on UC Serves Day.
UC Serves volunteers carry boxes of supplies down an urban street on UC Serves Day. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
UC Serves volunteers hold bricks and shovels in an urban garden on UC Serves Day. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
Mamluft & Co. dance team stands in the formation of alphabet letters that spell ALL for students in John P. Parker Elementary School on UC Serves Day.
UC Serves volunteer helps children make tie-dye T-shirts on UC Serves Day.
UC Serves volunteer stands at the entryway of an large bouncy inflatable to let kids in and out on UC Serves Day.
UC Serves volunteers stand inside a newly built greenhouse on UC Serves Day.
Children from Woodford Paideia Elementary School slide down an inflatable slide at UC Serves field day.
A UC Serves volunteer hands tickets to a family at Cincinnati's Krohn Conservatory Butterfly exhibit.
UC Serves volunteers stand with shovels and wheelbarrow while planting trees at an urban nature garden. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
UC Serves volunteers kneel down in the dirt while planting trees at an urban nature garden on UC Serves Day. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
UC Serves volunteers package boxes of diapers for the Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank on UC Serves Day. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
UC Serves volunteers stand together on the steps of a landscaping site on UC Serves Day. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
Group of UC Serves volunteers face forward after a fun day at Rolling Hills Elementary School on UC Serves Day.
UC Serves package boxes of diapers in Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank on UC Serves Day. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
UC Serves volunteer stands at a large inflatable with school children on UC Serves Day.
Two UC Serves volunteers stand in front of three larger-than-life puppet costumes at Cincinnati's Madcap Puppets on UC Serves Day.
UC Serves volunteers kneel down in the dirt while planting trees at a Cincinnati nature garden on UC Serves Day. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
Three UC Serves volunteers paint poolside picnic tables at the Gamble Nippert YMCA on UC Serves Day.
UC Serves volunteers kneel down in the dirt while planting trees at a Cincinnati nature garden on UC Serves Day. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
A completed greenhouse built by UC Serves volunteers stands proudly on a grassy area.
UC Serves volunteer helps students make tie-dye T-shirts on UC Serves Day. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
Group of UC Serves volunteers stand on a stairway inside Cincinnati's Harriet Beecher Stowe House on UC Serves Day.
UC Serves volunteers hammer nails into boards at a Habitat for Humanity house on UC Serves Day. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
UC Serves volunteer stands at a table of tie-dye materials in an elementary school on UC Serves Day.