Nearly 30 WVU Tech students volunteered their time and talents to three different local service projects during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on Monday, January 19.
In Charleston, a group of students spent the day preparing and serving food at Manna Meal, which offers free meals to the area’s hungry seven days a week. Volunteers spent the day cleaning and setting up dining areas, prepping and serving food, and spending time with those who stopped by for a meal.
WVU Tech Electrical Engineering student Felipe Sozinho was among the group.
“I have been wanting to get involved with community service activities for a long time now and this was a good opportunity to get started. Events like this help us grow as a person. They allows us to realize that it is a tough world out there, so we need to be grateful for the opportunities we have and help others whenever we can,” he said.
“Serving others allows you to see how other people live and what affects them,” said Emily Sands, WVU Tech’s Director of Student Activities. “It helps us realize that, while we may take things like eating three meals a day for granted, there are many people that are thankful to receive just one hot meal a day.”
A second group of students headed to the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association animal shelter in Charleston, where they helped to re-organize storage areas and spent time walking and playing with the shelters dogs and cats.
When accounting major Hunter Moles heard about the project, he knew it would be a great way to give back.
“I signed up to help the shelter because I love animals and know how hard the shelter works. Volunteers and donations are what keep it running,” he said. “Students should get involved as much as possible. It is a great thing to do not only for yourself, but for those organizations that need help.”
In Montgomery, WVU Tech students teamed up with students from BridgeValley Community and Technical College and volunteers from the Morris Creek Watershed Association. The three organizations have been working together to design and test methods to treat acid mine drainage and improve water quality in the nearby Morris Creek watershed.
Volunteers removed litter along the creek, toured MCWA’s ongoing projects to improve stream quality and helped to add limestone to mitigation ponds and Nelson tanks, which help to neutralize acid mine drainage in the stream. The group also cleaned the MCWA’s headquarters and installed a wood-burning stove so that the building could keep operating in the cold winter months.
Biology professor Dr. Deborah Beutler said that the day’s activities served as a learning opportunity for students, some of whom were unfamiliar with creek and its history.
“When they come to the watershed, they learn about the threats to the creek, how those threats are being addressed and how the creek has improved because of the efforts of the MCWA,” she said. “But most importantly, they learn that concerned citizens can make a difference.”
Sands said that service opportunities like these are an extension of WVU Tech’s goal to create well-rounded, civic-minded graduates.
“WVU Tech offers these opportunities to our students to help them understand that the world is a large place made up of a lot of different kinds of people, and that we need to help those in need. Our students are attending college to improve their lives and society. This is just a reminder that people and animals from all different walks of life need help.”
For students interested in volunteer opportunities, West Virginia’s Commission for National and Community Service, Volunteer West Virginia, is a good starting point. WVU Tech also sponsors an alternative Spring Break each year that pairs student volunteers up with Habitat for Humanity to work on a local project.