February 13, 2012

Service at JHU is a group effort

Homewood students volunteered 69,600 hours this fall

Johns Hopkins student groups possess a vibrant and generous volunteer ethos, with Baltimore City communities the beneficiary, according to a recent survey.

In fall 2011, 81 student organizations, representing 59 percent of the undergraduate student body at Homewood, worked on dozens of city service projects, including teen mentoring, breast cancer awareness initiatives, neighborhood cleanups, book drives, home renovations, math tutoring, animal welfare and many others.

Of those surveyed, students volunteered on average 1.94 days per week. The undergraduates’ service—more than 69,600 work hours—was valued at a minimum of $1,553,584, based on state of Maryland hourly volunteer rates.

The inaugural survey, conducted by the university’s Center for Social Concern, was intended to quantify service organized by Johns Hopkins’ student groups, varsity teams, fraternities, sororities and other undergraduate organizations in a given semester. The survey, the first in-depth examination of its kind at JHU, will be repeated each academic term.

The request went out in late fall, and the center processed the information last month.

Bill Tiefenwerth, director of the Center for Social Concern, said that the results illustrate the volunteer spirit on the campus.

“It tells me that Johns Hopkins students freely give of their time as best they can, although their time is limited with busy schedules,” he said.

Tiefenwerth said he was particularly impressed by the level of service from the varsity teams, whose members have to fit in volunteering between a rigorous


academic schedule and the many hours of training and travel.

“I found that really gratifying, and their work important,” he said. “It’s also a credit to [Athletics Director] Tom Calder, who has helped instill this ethic among the coaches and students.”

This fall, 13 teams, 312 students in total, participated in more than 2,500 hours of service. The women’s lacrosse team volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House of Charities of Baltimore, serving breakfast and spending time with the children there. The idea came from one of the team’s players, who had previously volunteered for the organization.

Colleen McCaffrey, a lacrosse team member and a senior majoring in psychology, said that teams are often inspired by the enthusiasm of other teams and teammates. McCaffrey said that the lacrosse squad also receives strong support from its coach, Janine Tucker.

“She often tells us that we’re so fortunate that we should take the time to give back to the community,” she said. “And we have a great time with service. Sometimes just showing up with a smile can mean the world to [the people we visit]. And the reactions you get keep you going back, wanting to do more and more.”

The women’s lacrosse team also hosted an inaugural Stick It to Sarcoma exhibition tournament this fall. Senior captain Rachel Ballatori, in honor of her father who was battling angiosarcoma, rallied her teammates and coaches to raise money for the fight against the disease. The special event, held Oct. 22, featured players from Johns Hopkins, Navy and the University of Cincinnati. All proceeds, more than $15,000, went to the Johns Hopkins Sarcoma Program.

Ballatori said that her teammates’ reaction filled her with “overwhelming gratitude.”

“They were there for me during a hard time in my life,” said Ballatori, whose father died in December. “I could not have asked for more.” Ballatori and the lacrosse team plan on hosting another Stick It to Sarcoma tournament this fall.

Both the baseball team and the women’s swim team helped clean up areas of Wyman Park Dell, the 16-acre public park located near the Homewood campus.

The wrestling team partnered with the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute to create the Take Down Autism program. The team dedicated its season to autism awareness, and the wrestlers raised money for CARD with each takedown they completed. The wrestlers also visited students and volunteered their time at Kennedy Krieger Institute and local schools.

The Greeks were very busy giving back, too.

Members of Kappa Kappa Gamma volunteered at the Margaret Brent Elementary Story Pals program. Phi Mu hosted a “Mr. Phi Mu” male pageant among fraternities and men’s sports teams to support the Katie Oppo Fund for Ovarian Cancer Research, named in recognition of a past chapter member. Phi Delta Theta founded and organized the Iron Phi 5K, a race to support the ALS Association.

The largest group volunteer effort was the JHU Tutorial Project, the long-standing after-school program that provides academic support for Baltimore City elementary school students. This fall, 150 students donated nearly 11,000 work hours to the project.

The student group SHARE had 138 students take part last fall in its community service. The mission of SHARE is to improve the quality of life for members of marginalized populations in medically underserved areas through the provision of otherwise unattainable medical and surgical supplies.

Several student groups surveyed participated in the President’s Day of Service held in September. More than 1,000 Johns Hopkins students, faculty, staff and alumni fanned out over Baltimore and beyond to lend a hand to local nonprofit organizations and community centers. The President’s Day of Service, organized by the Center for Social Concern, was set into motion by President Ron Daniels when he took office in fall 2009 as part of his commitment to serving the city.

The Center for Social Concern’s fall survey also produced several recommendations, such as having more faculty participate with the students and asking the university to explore ways to increase transportation options for students who wish to serve off campus.

Tiefenwerth said that the center is constantly looking for ways to expand and enhance the service experience for students at Johns Hopkins.

The Center for Social Concern, founded in 1991, is the student volunteer office for the Homewood campus, and it currently has 60 groups focused on serving the Baltimore community.