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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 8, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 2
Involved in Baltimore

Stamping and boxing books for the Book Thing, which will give them away at the upcoming Baltimore Book Festival.

The class of 2007 learns firsthand about nearby volunteer opportunities

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

They mulched trees, boxed books, sorted clothes, made sandwiches, gardened, conducted a community survey and gussied up a portion of a neighborhood park, among many other activities. Talk about your whirlwind couple of hours.

On Wednesday, Sept. 3, 700 new Homewood undergraduates finished up their orientation period with Involved 2003, an effort intended to introduce them to their surroundings and the idea of making service integral to their lives and studies.

Although intermittent rain jumbled the day's itinerary somewhat, Involved 2003 went on mostly as planned, as nearly two-thirds of Johns Hopkins' class of 2007 participated in 21 community service or information-gathering projects. The day's program was coordinated by the university's Center for Social Concern, the Orientation Committee and Alpha Phi Omega.

Formerly known as Freshman Day of Service, the program was founded in 1998 by a Johns Hopkins undergraduate who felt his fellow students were missing out on all the volunteer opportunities available to them just a stone's throw away from Homewood campus.

Packing care packages at Heart's Place Shelter in St. John's Church.

Bill Tiefenwerth, director of the Center for Social Concern, said that the new name for the program reflects a desire to make the day a little less about short-term service or work and more about long-term community involvement.

"I guess you can say in the basic sense that we are trying to embark upon an unfolding awareness of community," said Tiefenwerth, borrowing a word from Involved 2003's slogan, "Action, Awareness, Reflection."

The day began at 11 a.m., when hundreds of students gathered around Shriver Hall to be broken into groups of roughly 12 to 30, each representing a freshman residence hall.

Among the 21 destinations, almost all within walking distance of campus, were the Keswick Multi-Care Center, Heart's Place Shelter and Roosevelt Park, where students mulched trees and weeded. Other activities included visiting the Roland Park Place retirement community, to meet and read with residents; team building exercises at Project PLASE, an organization that addresses homelessness; shelving and stamping books for the Book Thing of Baltimore; making sandwiches and bagging care packages for STAR, an organization dedicated to providing services to women with HIV/ AIDS; and spending a day with members of BUILD, a faith-based, multidenominational, citywide organization that seeks to transform neighborhoods by training and developing neighborhood leaders. For the BUILD activity, students were bused to areas of the city where the organization was directly involved.

Matthew D'Agostino, the Center for Social Concern's assistant director and a coordinator of Involved 2003, said that while the day did incorporate some cleanup and beautification projects where students could get their hands dirty, simply sending out students to perform manual labor could send the wrong message both to them and the community.

Student group marches down Charles Street en route to its project site. The 700-plus freshman volunteers were divided by residence hall.

"There was a lot more diversity of activities this year," D'Agostino said. "It wasn't all about doing something so much as it was about absorbing the issues that face Baltimore. The idea was to take an issue like housing and homelessness and give students a context as to what is going on locally. A lot of people are afraid to talk about the bad things about Baltimore to these students, but that, we feel, is a mistake. We wanted to introduce students to people who are involved in the solutions to these issues, so that in turn they could see what part they could have in the solution as well."

D'Agostino said that despite the rainy conditions and the canceling of some outdoor-related projects, the day had a large turnout, and organizers considered it a huge success.

"Considering what logistical problems there could have been, everything went surprisingly smoothly, and the students had a lot of good things to say when they came back," he said.

Sammy Huang, a freshman who participated in the Book Thing project, said he was inspired by the number of students who braved the damp, cloudy conditions.

"It's really good to see everyone out and involved in the community," said Huang, who is from Delaware and is planning to major in biology. "This day gives people a chance to explore more of Baltimore and see what is around--and help people at the same time."

Sorting clothes at Heart's Place Shelter in St. John's Church. Susie Fawzi, standing left, said that Involved 2003 was 'a great starting point' for would-be volunteers.

Tiefenwerth said that one of the stated goals of Involved 2003 is to foster relationships between students and nonprofit community service organizations so that students sometime during their four years at Johns Hopkins will want to volunteer some of their time at these places.

Based on what a sampling of students said, that message comes through loud and clear.

Susie Fawzi, who spent the afternoon at Heart's Place Shelter sorting clothes, said that Involved 2003 was a "great starting point" for students who wanted to volunteer.

"When you first come to school, you don't know what is out there to do, and this day gives you a good idea of what needs to be done in the community," said Fawzi, who is from Morristown, N.J. "If I hadn't come here [to Heart's Place Shelter] today, I would have never known this place existed."


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