Fall break offers opportunities to serve

Several Stevenson University students are using the time off during fall break to participate in the third annual Fall Serve from Oct. 6-9.

Students work together to plant trees at the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy to improve the environment. Fall Serve provides students with the opportunity to volunteer for local Baltimore organizations. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Student Engagement)

Fall Serve was created by Morgan Somerville, the director of student engagement, to partner Stevenson students with local Baltimore organizations to engage in service in a number of unique ways.

Students have the opportunity to work with the Maryland Book Bank, Leveling the Playing Field and Second Chance, among others. Fall Serve offers a chance for students to meet like-minded individuals from other majors and backgrounds.

Zoe Maliszewskyj, a junior film and moving image major, attended Fall Serve in the past and said, Second Chance, an organization that sells used furniture and equipment, was her favorite service partner to work with.

“They take donations and clean them up and resell them, but the special part of their company is that they not only give a second chance to the furniture, but also to the people they employ,” said Maliszewskyj. “They hire people who might not have a chance to get a job anywhere else.”

Service at Stevenson University became popular 10 years ago with the creation of Mission: I’m Home. Moved by her experience in Louisiana rebuilding homes after Hurricane Katrina, Somerville and Arthur Fifer, assistant professor of information systems, created Mission: I’m Home, an organization that takes annual trips to Louisiana to continue to repair homes damaged and lost to the storm. However, because of the cost and timing of the trip, many students were unable to participate.

“[Fall serve] was created as another option for folks who could not or did not want to travel for service,” said Somerville. “One of our Mission: I’m Home alums, who works for a nonprofit that we support on a monthly basis, pointed out to me years ago that it’s really great that I take students all the way to Louisiana to do service, but why are we neglecting our backyard?”

Somerville and Stevenson students team up to prepare reclaimed materials for the showroom floor at Second Chance in Baltimore. Somerville created Fall Serve to give students the opportunity to participate in service without having to travel far from campus. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Student Engagement)

Fall Serve traditionally takes place from Saturday to Tuesday of fall break. In addition to serving in the local community, participants have the opportunity to bond as they make meals together and reflect on the day’s activities. In the evenings, students play games and watch movies that are not only entertaining but help them better grasp the magnitude of how their service impacts their community.

“It expanded my ideas of what service included,” said Cassie Harris, a sophomore fashion design major who participated in Fall Serve last year. “When we were actually hands-on pulling weeds, hands-on painting and cleaning, that showed me that service can mean a lot of different things. And even if you are not on the forefront, you are still making an impact. It is gratifying to know you are helping out.”

Registration for Fall Serve is, unfortunately, now closed. However, students still have the opportunity to serve in their local community.

In addition to trips with Mission: I’m Home, Stevenson now hosts Service Saturdays and Sundays. These are weekly opportunities to serve with other people in the Stevenson community at local organizations. And if these don’t fit in the schedule, Somerville is happy to work with all students to find an opportunity that best fits their interests and needs.

“I honestly think service is part of being a human being,” said Somerville. “I have had so many incredible people come into my life and experiences in my life that are all rooted in service. Service opens doors for you in a way that is often unexpected.”

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