Volunteers Dig Into Community Garden During Dean’s Day of Service

By Tricia Vance

The weather was perfect for planting as volunteers for the UNCW Dean’s Day of Service gathered Feb. 24 to plant the early-spring crop in the Hillcrest public housing complex community garden. The event, coordinated by the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement, encourages students and other UNCW volunteers to help their neighbors.

“The service day began in spring 2016 as a way to give students additional opportunities to volunteer in the community,” said Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Mike Walker, who wielded a rake to prepare a raised bed for planting. “It also gives the staff the opportunity to interact with students outside the campus setting.”

OSLE coordinated the event in partnership with Feast Down East, which has an office at Hillcrest. The volunteers had a three-hour window to pull weeds, do some light tilling, add soil and set down vegetable plants in the beds outside the Wilmington Housing Authority-UNCW Community Campus. The early-spring planting included lettuce, collards, kale, spinach and onions.

The university’s Dean’s Day of Service embodies the values of community engagement and service outlined in UNCW’s Strategic Plan. Since the program was initiated, UNCW volunteers have completed nine projects and contributed 596.5 hours of service to the community. A total of 150 students and 43 faculty and staff members have participated.

Army veteran Juny Santeliz, a junior majoring in accounting and finance, has participated in several Dean’s Day projects. “I really believe that service is not separate from our national priority, but fundamental to it,” he said. “It instills character and teaches you to do for your brother and sister what you can.”

Other volunteers supervised activities for children, including painting and using egg cartons to plant their own seeds, which they will learn to care for. Erin Espinosa, an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving with Feast Down East, said the children benefit not only from learning about nutrition and growing fresh food, but also from being around UNCW students.

“The kids here will ask students what it’s like to go to college,” Espinosa said.

The next service project is scheduled for April 8 and will benefit OSLE’s Stop Hunger Now program. Students who would like to participate should sign up on the Dean’s Day of Service web page.