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December 20, 2005
Column for Chapel Hill News


As the year draws to a close, the usual flurry of seasonal activities coincides with the end of the semester here at Carolina. At the same time studying, review sessions, exams and papers demand attention; students, faculty and staff are also immersed in numerous efforts to address community need during the holidays. Opportunities range from a campus food drive to “adoptions” of families and nursing home residents. However, as organizations and individuals throughout the community and state know, the spirit of giving at Carolina is not limited to this time of year. At the Carolina Center for Public Service, we can look back at numerous accomplishments and partnerships that have made 2005 such a successful year for our campus and the community.                   

One highlight was seeing the first class of Public Service Scholars graduate in May. Fifteen pioneers of the program marched into Kenan Stadium sporting Carolina blue and white cords on their robes. These graduates and the program were featured at commencement. Last fall, 302 new students enrolled in the Public Service Scholars program, bringing the total to 623 participants. These students, representing 64 out of 100 North Carolina counties as well as 33 other states, the District of Columbia and four foreign countries, contributed more than 51,000 hours of service during 2005, 23,275 of which were in Orange County. They worked in a wide variety of local organizations and agencies, including the Chapel Hill Carrboro and Orange County public school systems, the Orange County Animal Shelter, Rape Crisis Center and the Red Cross.

Local partnerships were also key to the success of the “Student Philanthropy Project,” in which students earn academic credit while learning about and becoming community grants-makers. Thanks to a local donor, students helped fund three projects: “School’s Out,” a program of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, the “Car Seat Safety Program” of the Community School for People Under Six, and “Therapeutic Recreation Fun Days” at the Chapel Hills Parks and Recreation Department.

As with others across the nation, the devastating storms along the gulf coast motivated the Carolina community to respond. The Center was charged with coordinating UNC’s response and we created a special website which was up and running within 24 hours of Katrina’s landfall. Over 36 campus organizations came together to conduct activities such as “Pit Sits” and “Beads for the Bayou” that netted over $58,000 in direct financial support of the American Red Cross and other relief organizations. 

We continue to update the web site as groups plan spring relief trips to affected areas. We will help support those efforts with grants from our special Hurricane Relief Fund as well as campus-wide forums and training for those involved. We have hopes that the new year will not bring the level of disasters that the past two years have seen, but we also know that the campus and community stand ready to respond if needed.

As we greet 2006, we begin the year with the kind of resolutions that will be a pleasure to undertake. For instance, we will continue to recognize faculty leaders like Gordon Whitaker at the School of Government. Gordon received this year’s Ned Brooks Award for Public Service honoring his work with untold numbers of students and communities throughout the state at our annual public service awards celebration. We are excited to be announcing a new grants program beginning with a locally focused endeavor supported by Strowd Roses Inc., which will offer faculty an opportunity to address issues of importance to Chapel Hill and Orange County through their engaged scholarship.

In these and countless other ways, we are working to ensure that public service and community engagement help define Carolina as a leading public university, and we want to celebrate the season by thanking all those who have worked with us to make a difference in Chapel Hill, throughout North Carolina and around the world.

Lynn White Blanchard
Director, Carolina Center for Public Service
CB# 3142
UNC-Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3142

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