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Student volunteers plunge into community

More than 600 students, composed primarily of members from different campus organizations, volunteered to work in the surrounding community of USF on Saturday.

Along with local non-profit agencies and social service organizations, the students participated in the fifth annual Community Plunge, sponsored by Volunteer USF under the guidance of the Center for Civic Engagement and Volunteerism and in cooperation with the Office of Multicultural Activities.

The event began at 8:30 a.m. at the MLK Plaza. After a brief introductory meeting, the students departed to their volunteer locations, led by student site leaders. Volunteers worked for two hours at each location.

Members of the USF Leadership House volunteered at Acorn Trace Apartments, which houses some members of the Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay.

“I’ve done volunteering at my old high school,” said freshman and Leadership House member John Dauphinais. “And working with the Leadership House seemed like a good way to give back to my community.”

The volunteers function at Acorn Trace was to clean the residents’ apartments and provide companionship. The average age among the residents is 85, with most being physically unable to clean.

“It’s exciting for them, that young adults will take the time and do this,” said Barbara VanMatre, property manager of Acorn Trace, “it’s wonderful.”

Each of the 30 volunteer sites provided a different type of challenge, from working with children to cleaning up the environment.

Locations for volunteer work included Lowry Park Zoo, Bakas Equestrian Center Horses for the Handicapped, Hope Children’s Home and the Ronald McDonald House.

Three sites were related to children’s services, four to environmental cleanups, two assisted living facilities and two were dedicated to people with disabilities.

The Salvation Army, Police Athletic League of Tampa, America’s Second Harvest of Tampa and Cracker Country Living History also participated in the event.

At Croc Encounters, a reptile park and wildlife center, volunteers worked physically demanding and often dirty tasks.

Members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi and Sigma Beta Rho Fraternities cleared the overgrowth on fences, mowed lawns and sorted donated lumber.

“We like to have fun, but we also like to give back to the society,” said Mohammad Alian, a brother of Sigma Beta Rho.

According to Andrew Kirkland, chair of the department of marketing and fundraising for the Center for Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, the idea behind the Community Plunge was to get students involved with the community while getting the community involved with the students as well.

“The Community Plunge has grown tremendously from the first year,” Kirkland said. “We’ve actually jumped from about 400 students last year to 600 and some odd students this year.”

The next event for the department will be Hunger Awareness Week in September.