Near-perfect weather greeted more than 550 Samford University student volunteers for Samford Gives Back Day April 12. The volunteers spread across North Central Alabama in a day of service organized by the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement and Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society.
With a theme of "Grow Where You Are Planted," students helped 26 different community organizations from Tuscaloosa to far eastern Birmingham, with dozens more assisting with the annual Old Howard 100 Bike Ride in Perry County, Ala., that was sponsored by Samford's Howard College of Arts and Sciences. Projects ranged from community gardens to painting to health clinics to landscaping to moving furniture.
Members of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity assisted with the spring planting day at Grace Village Community Garden in suburban Fairfield. Grace Village founder Marcus Busenitz said the Samford students provided "serious manpower" for the project, moving compost, tilling and preparing ground for the garden which supports Grace Village foster homes for girls.
"We are just trying to serve the community. Working here today is just one way for us to give back," said Jhamall Wright, a sophomore from Nashville, Tenn., who was shoveling compost into wheelbarrows being pushed by his fraternity brothers.
Across town at Seeds Coffee Co., members of Samford's Enactus chapter were helping to prepare for a May 3 benefit to celebrate the company's first anniversary. Owner Chris Miller said the students were cleaning the facility, entering information into the organization's database and delivering promotional fliers in the neighborhood.
Enactus student leader Clarissa Donaldson, a senior business major from Brentwood, Tenn., said her group wanted to combine their academic interests in Enactus with the service day.
"I heard about Seeds through a friend and thought it would be great to get a group of Enactus members to serve a business that has a social entrepreneurship and ministry focus," Donaldson said. "We found that we could serve the local economy and a local business while representing Samford."
Miller said Seeds does community building locally and works with coffee growers and farmers overseas to help improve their local communities. That fits with the mission of Enactus, an international nonprofit organization that unites student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurship to improve the lives of people in need around the world, Donaldson said.
The largest single volunteer group came from Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, with about 50 members assisting with the Tempo family fun festival at Birmingham's Railroad Park. About 20 students worked at Mitchell's Place, an early learning program for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The volunteers also worked close to their Samford "home." About 10 students assisted a Samford faculty member in relocating from her apartment that was damaged in floods that hit Birmingham earlier in the week.
Laura Valentine, Samford's community engagement coordinator, called the day a success, even as the students were spreading out across the metropolitan region.
"Community service is intrinsic to the Samford mission," Valentine said. "By encouraging students to become involved now with community service, hopefully they will make service a part of their lives even after leaving Samford."
In a gathering time before volunteers left campus, Samford Gives Back Day student coordinator Sydney Sanders encouraged the students with the parable of the sower from Matthew's Gospel.
"Jesus is our example of sowing on good ground, and Samford is the good ground where we have been planted," Sanders said. "It is our hope that through today's experiences you can grow and flourish."
Sanders is a sophomore from Hattiesburg, Miss.
Mary Wimberley, Samford's senior news and feature writer, assisted with information for this story.