Gamecocks give back: Impact on community over $7M
The University of South Carolina community contributed more than $7 million to the local economy in volunteer time and money last year, according to the USC Community Service Report for 2009-2010.
The report shows that 23,436 students, faculty and staff members participated in volunteer work totaling 346,678 service hours. The economic impact of that service is estimated at $5.6 million dollars. In addition, Gamecocks gave more than $1.4 million in philanthropic donations for a total economic impact of $7,041,994.
“Students can gain a lot through community service,” says Michelle Peer, program advisor for community service programs at USC. “They can really become connected to their new home, the Carolina community, and learn about the needs that are around them. It’s so important for them to become civically responsible individuals.”
Wanting to do even more, the Office of Campus Life is asking all students, faculty and staff to give 10 hours of volunteer service during this academic year as part of a new initiative called, “Gamecocks Giving Back.”
The challenge was made Wednesday, Sept. 15, during the USC Community Service Opportunities Fair at the Russell House University Union. Representatives from 40 non-profit organizations provided information to the students on ways to “give back” to the Greater Columbia area.
The non-profit organizations include: the American Red Cross of South Carolina, the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands, Carolina Wildlife Care, the Cooperative Ministry, Free Medical Clinic, Habitat for Humanity, Keep the Midlands Beautiful and the Salvation Army.
As part of the “Gamecocks Giving Back” program, the Carolina community can sign a pledge form on-line at: http://www.sa.sc.edu/communityservice/giving_back.htm
The Office of Community Service was founded in 1989 to make volunteering an integral part of the education experience at USC. Students at the university have a variety of ways to get involved, ranging from monthly service projects to service-learning courses to study abroad experiences with a service component.
Some of the work includes: mentoring a young person as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program; translating documents into Spanish for Home Works; and helping patients and their families at Reliant Hospice.
Research also shows that students who participate in campus service continue as active volunteers after they graduate. A survey of 2005-2006 graduates found that 88 percent reported being involved in service in their communities.
“People don’t realize that community service is about learning about Columbia and South Carolina and the area,” says international business senior Jennifer Conner.
She says volunteering is not only rewarding but can also help students in their life goals. “It opens your eyes and gives you new perspective as to what you want to do when you graduate,” says Conner, president of the Carolina Services Council.
One popular choice for students to volunteer is a monthly group called Service Saturday. Last month, USC students went to Harvest Hope, a Columbia food bank, to help re-stock shelves and fill boxes with food to hand out to those in-need.
“Harvest Hope, specifically, is really tangible,” Conner says. “I’ve been here when families are picking up the food. I can see the people in need who are getting this product. It’s helping them out. It’s putting food on the table.”
The USC community can find more information at the website: www.sa.sc.edu/communityservice/.