Published on April 3, 2019 by Sarah Cain  
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Each year, the annual spring Samford Gives Back event connects hundreds of volunteers with Birmingham community partners for a morning of service and engagement. Coordinated by Samford’s Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership, this year’s event mobilized 870 students and involved 38 different community partners and work sites. 

The large-scale projects students assist with on this day are often saved by community partners the Mann Center works with year-round.

“Although the university as a whole works with hundreds of local churches, nonprofits and other community organizations, the Mann Center works hard to foster deep relationships with the core partners who serve as sites every week for the Mann Center’s Service Cadre Program,” Allison Nanni, director of community engagement in the Mann Center said. “Oftentimes, they may have capital projects, cleaning or needs that a larger group of student volunteers can assist with on a Saturday morning. We try to be sure to meet those needs of our community partners – in addition to over 30 other sites at our annual day of service.” 

Volunteers included members of service organizations, clubs, sororities, fraternities, academic societies and teams of individuals who sought to give back in ways that used their skill sets and interests. 

Sophomore Allison Ambler served as a team leader for Samford’s International Club

“As a team leader, I wanted to identify an organization the International Club could work with that aligned with our club mission, which is to highlight common bonds of unity to create community,” she said. “Grace Klein Community was a great fit because their efforts are focused locally and globally.”

Ambler first volunteered with Samford Gives Back her freshman year and the experience served as a launch pad for more long-term community engagement. In addition to serving as a team leader, she is a Young Life leader and a service liaison for a local youth organization called Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCo).

“Right when I started at Samford I joined a service cadre so from the beginning I knew that I wanted to be invested in Birmingham,” Ambler said. “Samford Gives Back is a great opportunity because it shows students there are a lot of organizations making a difference in the city that have great need. For a lot of people this event could be a start. It’s a great chance to sign up with friends and bridge a gap to make it more comfortable to serve alone or find people to do that with you in the future.”

For Nanni, this initial connection for students and community partners is exactly what she hopes will help encourage an ongoing relationship. 

“We know students are busy and bombarded with a lot of information about great opportunities to get involved outside of the classroom every day,” she said. “Because we typically have such a great turnout for this annual event – over 800 students – we use our pre-event reflection time with them to not only share our programs that involve regular work and volunteerism in the community, but to also help them understand the deep connection and social responsibility that comes with practicing your faith.” 

Cornerstone Schools of Alabama, a core community partner of the Mann Center, has participated in Samford Gives Back for several years. 

"We are always humbled by the enthusiasm and hard work provided by Samford volunteers.  Samford Gives Back provides a tremendous amount of help in supporting our team,” Cornerstone’s Volunteer and Special Events Coordinator Eve Hennessy said. “We are so grateful to have Samford volunteers with us throughout the school year, but Samford Gives back provides the unique opportunity for our organization to work side-by-side with Samford students.” 

Freshman Sydney Albrecht led Alpha Delta Pi sorority in their service at Cornerstone.

“The part I enjoyed the most was learning about our service partner's mission and impact on the community,” she said. “I was so inspired by the great work they are doing for the community. I took away a better perception of the city I get to call ‘home’ for the next four years, and the knowledge that there are so many awesome ways to get involved in serving the community.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.