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Projects range from food drives to holiday cards

Point Park students hold up their new Sleep-in for the Homeless T-shirts as part of an October, 2010, community service project in Downtown Pittsburgh. | Photo by Gabrielle Mazza. Point Park students took part in the Sleep-in for the Homeless community service project at the City-County Building in Downtown Pittsburgh in October.

December 2010

College life isn't all about classes, projects and exams. Sometimes it's about helping others.

"One of Point Park University's strategic initiatives is community engagement," says J.W. Tabacchi, the University's director of student activities. So he and his team -- and quite a few student organizations on campus -- strive to make community service easy, accessible and fun for Point Park students.

There are two main ways students can get involved.

"The first way is student-initiated community service projects through student organizations, like the Community Service Club," says Tabacchi. The second way is efforts initiated by the Office of Student Activities. "These range from anything large-scale -- like the Sleep-in for the Homeless, done with Allegheny County, or the food drive Scouting for Food, which we do in April -- to smaller projects like bingo for the elderly."

A new initiative for fall semester was the Collegiate Day of Service -- a partnership with Chatham University for community service projects centered on diversity.

"Students basically signed up saying, 'Yes, I'll volunteer my time though I don't know what I'm going to do.' " says Amanda McGuire, coordinator of student programming. "Some people had a garden clean-up session with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, others went to a women's shelter and played with the kids who stay there, and yet others played bingo with the elderly at Pressley Ridge high-rise on the North Side."

Kaitlyn Villines, a junior dance major from Oklahoma, is very involved with service project through her work-study job in the student activities office and through the Community Service Club she started with two other students, Brianne Feindt and Carleigh Dettorre.

"This is our club's second year and we have about 40 members. People are really starting to show their interest in helping our community. I think it's because we're actually giving people the opportunity."

Student groups involved
in community service

Sampling of student community service projects

  • Fall Banger fundraiser
  • Blood Drives for the Red Cross and Central Blood Bank
  • Collegiate Day of Service with Chatham College
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Holiday card-making through Pittsburgh Cares
  • "Pink Feet" fundraiser benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation
  • Sleep-In for the Homeless
  • Toys for Tots
  • Trick or Eat for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
  • Western Pennsylvania Conservancy garden clean-up
  • World AIDS Day

During December, the Community Service Club is helping the Toys for Tots, first with a toy drive on campus. Closer to Christmas, they'll head to the Toys for Tots warehouse to help "sort toys, wrap toys, do whatever they need us to do to get ready to distribute those gifts," Villines says.

Many volunteer activities take place on campus. Blair Jones is a community facilitator for the Sporting Life freshman floor, one of Point Park's Living and Learning Communities. A sport, arts and entertainment management major from Duquesne, Jones collaborated with Jonathon Morgan, a CF on the Gamers LLC, to entice students to watch some football, eat some food -- and make holiday cards for the elderly and children, in coordination with Pittsburgh Cares.

"We honestly didn't know whether to expect just our floors or to expect a lot of people," says Jones. "We had maybe 60-70 people there! And almost everybody who came made a card. At first it was more about the food and hanging out. Once people started seeing all the supplies, they really got into it. The majority of these cards took a lot of time and effort -- it was really nice."

Students highly involved in community service may be invited on Point Park's yearly Alternative Spring Break trip, which combines travel and community service.

"We generally go to the Gulf Coast region that was affected by Hurricane Katrina and do some serious community service work," explains Tabacchi. "Students also got to go into New Orleans to visit the Ninth Ward, do some tours, visit the culture, see how other people live."

McGuire says students can find out about volunteer opportunities in many different ways: "There are very large advertisements in big glass cases right outside the Point Café in Lawrence Hall for larger scale activities. Check the student activities boards throughout campus and look for flyers. Also watch their Point Park email, as well as Facebook, Twitter, etc."

Photo by Gabrielle Mazza, senior photojournlism major