Event for a better community

Students and citizens gathered to give back Saturday at the annual “Make A Difference Tallahassee” community service day program. The event brought numerous volunteers out to lend a hand to various charity and outreach agencies.

Participants reached out to groups such as Habitat for Humanity, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Goodwill Industries.

During the event, committee members served free food and gave out door prizes.

This year’s committee was made up of representatives from FAMU, Florida State University, Tallahassee Community College, Volunteer Leon and Capital Area Citizens Core.

Gina Kittel, the chairperson of the planning committee, said it was the second year that the committee had tri-collegiate involvement.

“There are 350 registered student and community members,” she said. “The program gives students the opportunity to recognize social issues and encourages them to take an active role by giving back.”

Kittel said each partner contributes something different.

“Those who have been doing this for some time share past experiences,” she said. “The newer partners bring new perspectives.”

Estella Gray, 22, one of the two student representatives from FAMU, said this is her second year volunteering with the program.

“I honestly believe if it wasn’t for someone helping me, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” said the senior public relations student from Tampa.

Gray said she was happy to be involved and added that the experience is more enjoyable than some may think.

“Bagging groceries for the elderly, reading to children, beautifying the city and teaching sports are some of the community service activities,” she said. “People always think of community service as tiring work, but it’s really fun.”

Gray said students should not only utilize this occasion to help out in the community, but also use it as a networking opportunity.

“You meet so many different people and agencies,” she said. “You can use that to your advantage.”

Jeri Bush, director of Volunteer Leon, said the role of her organization was to make sure the community service day was not exclusively for participating colleges.

“Our job was to make sure the citizens were included,” she said. “We recruited through Web sites, press releases and by word of mouth.”

Bush said when people go for the two to four-hour work day, they receive a snapshot of the agencies,” she said.

“We encourage them to make the connections and establish a traditional role with the organization.”

Gray said many of the volunteers were not from FAMU.

“FAMU is often underrepresented in events like this,” Gray said.

“We need to be more proactive when it comes to service in the community.”

Contact Russell Nichols at nichols_russell@hotmail.com.