Changing Lives, One Project at a Time
As Denison students, we strive to become autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents, and active citizens of a democratic society, all of which are values outlined in the university’s mission statement. Denison hopes to instill in every student “a firm belief in human dignity and compassion unlimited by cultural, racial, sexual, religious or economic barriers, and directed toward an engagement with the central issues of our time.”
In keeping with the school’s mission statement, every year, students have the opportunity to take part in Breakaway. Breakaway is a volunteer program, run through the Denison Community Association (DCA), which gives Denison students the opportunity to spend part of their winter break giving back to those in need.
This year, 58 students volunteered their time to different organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Beans and Rice, REACH, and the Hubbard House. Each trip is focused on themes regarding relevant issues facing disadvantaged communities. Students traveled to Pulaski, Va., East St. Louis, Tucker, Ga., Roanoke, Va., and Springfield, Mo. to address issues such rural poverty and food insecurity, health disparities and disabilities, and affordable housing.
The group that went to Roanoke partnered with REACH and did community development tasks during their time there, starting demolition on a home for REACH’s Home Rehabilitation Project and did some educational outreach work at The Hope Center’s after-school program.
The Pulaski group partnered with Beans and Rice, an organization devoted to improving the well-being of low-income families through hunger relief, after-school programs, job creation, and savings programs to help families buy their first homes or save for their children’s education. The Denison volunteers worked at food drives and at the Beans and Rice after-school program to teach kids about nutrition.
Denison has partnered with the Catholic Urban Program in East St. Louis for 14 years. The Denison group worked at the Holy Angels Homeless Shelter, volunteered at after-school programs, organized clothing and served hot meals, as well as any “odd-jobs” the program needed assistance with.
The Habitat for Humanity group of Denison volunteers travelled to Tucker, Ga. where they worked alongside residents to fix up their homes. Trip leader, senior Sarah Bradley, explained that on this year’s trip, the main project was repairing the siding and painting the exterior of the home. After completing that project, the group did yardwork and repainted a deck on another site. Bradley is somewhat of a Breakaway veteran, having been on three total trips during her time at Denison. She was a trip leader for last year’s Habitat group which travelled to Durham, N.C. and the year before, attended the Habitat trip which went to Birmingham, Alabama. Reflecting on the experience, Sarah says: “Volunteering has always been a really huge part of my life. The opportunity to give back to a community and change someone’s life for the better is an experience that I believe everyone should have at least once. Habitat is a great organization because they provide affordable housing to families who are deserving, but otherwise would not be able to afford it. But Habitat also goes beyond that- they really get to know their families and also let them be a part of the home-building experience.”
When asked how volunteering with Breakaway has impacted her Denison career Bradley said, “Volunteering with such a great organization like Habitat will be something that I will always treasure. It has put things in perspective for me as well. It makes me thankful for what I have and reminds me to not only be thankful to have a roof over my head, but also the importance of giving back to those who do not.”
Breakaway is not the only volunteer program available to Denison students. The Denison Community Association (DCA) hosts numerous opportunities for students to get involved such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Saturday Service, and Food Recovery, to name just a few. The Food Recovery Network is a program that takes the excess food from the dining halls on campus and donates that food to the Salvation Army, The Haven Men’s Shelter, YES Clubhouse, Water’s Edge After School Programs, and the United Church of Granville. In the 2015-2016 school year, Food Recovery rescued 11,550 pounds of food from campus.
Whether it’s volunteering on Saturday with DCA or going on a trip with Breakaway, Denison provides students with a multitude of opportunities to get involved. Even the smallest of actions can make a difference.