Students volunteer time

The $360 raised during last year’s “A Night to Give Back” community service program gave organizers a reason to try it again. And they are glad they did, because the Friday night event drew twice as many participants, and charitable donations more than quadrupled.

Perhaps it was speakers from three popular reality television shows or better publicity that drew 2,000 students to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for local food banks, bowl for charity and make cards for hospitalized children and the elderly. But it is hard to discount the effect of a heightened sense of volunteerism around campus and the nation since Sept. 11.

No matter what the reason this year’s “A Night to Give Back” raised $1,650 for the Red Cross disaster relief and produced more than 5,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The sandwiches were distributed to five different food banks including the D.C. Central Kitchen, Martha’s Table and Shepard’s Table, Marvin Center Governing Board Chairman Ben Getto said. About 500 members of the Greek-letter community helped with the event.

“Everyone was really excited for it – almost every chapter came out for it,” senior Ryan Wenstrup said. “We wanted to help out, and we made more this year then we did last year.”

Event coordinator Elizabeth Cox attributed the increased participation to publicity and name recognition for the event, which the MCGB has adopted and will continue annually.

Cox, a graduate business student, said last year’s event was organized through a class she took, but she felt it was important enough to organize for a second year.

“Community service isn’t only something that is needed today after the Sept. 11 attacks and all that has been going on, but also something that can be fun,” she said.

Cox said one of the night’s goals was to make community service fun.

A panel of reality TV show participants kicked off the evening discussing their community service activities and asking students to participate in service activities.

“The Real World of Service” included Yes Duffy from “Road Rules,” Joe Patane from MTV’s “Real World” in Miami and “Big Brother” cast members Eddie McGee and Brittany Petros.

“Whatever you are passionate in, do it,” Patane said. “If you have any energy or fire to get involved, get out there.”

Duffy added that it is important people do not become overwhelmed with the idea of community service.

“Anyone can do it. It can be a small or large commitment,” he said. “It’s all up to you.”

Following the discussion, the speakers made their way up to the Hippodrome where they traded in their street shoes for bowling shoes. They played with about 20 student bowling teams in an effort to raise money for Habitat for Humanity, a national organization that builds homes for the less fortunate.

“Our (goal is) to help strike out the homelessness in the D.C. area,” said Hippodrome Program Coordinator Patrick Ledesma. He said he hoped the event would raise $500 for the GW Habitat group.

The winning team received a coupon for a 6-foot Subway sandwich party with drinks, chips and cookies.

In addition to music and dancing, students could also make cards for children in local hospitals and elderly residents of the District.

“I thought this would be a fun way to get involved,” said freshman Courtney Campbell, as she arranged shapes to glue on a card. “There are a lot of ways to get involved with the organizations, and I wanted to see how I could get involved in the future, not just tonight.”

She said she learned about activities and ways to get her whole residence hall involved.

The night ended with a campfire on the third floor terrace, where students huddled together to make s’mores and listen to the winners of the raffle drawing.

Heather Fink, Mike Rosenthal and Adam Vitale won the top three prizes, which included two round-trip airline tickets for anywhere in North America.

Laura Taddeucci, director of the Student Activities Center, said she was happy about the outcome of the evening.

“I think anytime you can get more than 1,000 college students to come out on a Friday night to volunteer their time is a big event,” she said.

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