September 19, 2011

Johns Hopkins University lends hundreds of hands

Volunteers head out on President’s Day of Service

Johns Hopkins volunteers clean up neighborhood property in 2010. Photo: Will Kirk/

They will divide and volunteer, for Baltimore’s sake. Nearly 1,000 Johns Hopkins students, faculty, staff and alumni will fan out over Baltimore and beyond on Saturday to lend a hand to local nonprofit organizations and community centers.

The President’s Day of Service, organized by the Johns Hopkins Center for Social Concern, was spearheaded by President Ron Daniels when he took office in fall 2009 as part of his commitment to serving the city.

The initiative is an outgrowth of Involved, a former freshman day of service that introduced incoming Homewood students to the city.

Last year, nearly 800 students participated in the one-day event that featured more than 40 service projects.

Gia Grier-McGinnis, assistant director of the Center for Social Concern, said that the extra manpower, even if just for a day, can have a significant impact.

“The nonprofits we have established relationships with look forward to this day, and the new agencies we are working with are really excited to meet Johns Hopkins students and expose them to their agency’s work,” Grier-McGinnis said. “It introduces many students to volunteer opportunities.”

This year’s event again features the theme “One Johns Hopkins, One Baltimore” and seeks to illustrate the transformative power of collective action and the positive change that Johns Hopkins can generate in the community. Students and Johns Hopkins personnel will participate in more than 40 projects.

In addition to the Homewood-based effort, the President’s Day of Service will be replicated at the university’s East Baltimore, Peabody and Applied Physics Laboratory campuses, with roughly 200 people registered at each site.

The Johns Hopkins Student Outreach Resource Center, better known as SOURCE, will coordinate activities for the schools of Public Health, Nursing and Medicine. Mindi Levin, director and founder of SOURCE, said that roughly 200 people will participate in eight projects around the East Baltimore campus, including meal preparation and service at Our Daily Bread, encouraging HIV testing at the Shepherd Clinic and outreach work with the mobile unit of Sisters Together and Reaching, known as STAR.

Grier-McGuiness said that the other divisions were added to make this truly a universitywide event under one banner.

Homewood volunteers will help mentor children at local schools, put on talent shows, work at food providers, plant gardens, paint and help refurbish buildings, clean streams and contribute to a host of other projects.

One group will travel to the Reservoir Hill area to participate in a large-scale landscaping project to clean up and create gardens and green spaces at five different sites in the community.

Another group of volunteers will go to 901 Arts, a space on Montpelier Street dedicated to providing arts to Waverly community residents, especially neighborhood youth. The site hosts visual art classes, drawing classes, piano lessons and monthly Saturday workshops for different age groups. The volunteers will put up fliers to recruit donations and support, organize art supplies, paint and get creative with sidewalk chalk in front of the Waverly Library.

“We made an attempt this year to have fewer but bigger projects so that we could send more students to each location,” Grier-McGinnis said.

More than 40 student groups will participate. A 12-person student planning committee helped coordinate the day’s activities.

Grier-McGinnis said that the hope is that the projects spark interest in volunteering and expose participants to the needs of the community.

“It’s about creating awareness to the challenges that people in the community face,” she said. “Ideally, we would like them to stay involved and delve deeper into volunteer work during their time at Johns Hopkins.”

The Homewood event kicks off at 11 a.m. at the O’Connor Recreation Center with opening remarks from President Daniels. The volunteers will work from noon to 4 p.m. and then return to Homewood for a post-service party to include a raffle and a performance by the AllNighters, JHU’s only all-male a cappella group.