At the 39th annual United Way Awards Luncheon, SCAD Serve was awarded the United Way Arts and Culture Award for their efforts in the Savannah community during 2017. Student coordinators, partners at Memorial and Fight Dirty Tybee, as well as other organizations and members of the community witnessed the announcement. “We are humbled by this award. We don’t do anything to try and get awards, we just want to go out there and do our best for the community. We couldn’t do it without our volunteers and community partners,” Lauren Slaydon, Assistant Director of Student Involvement, said.
In 2017, SERVE hosted 100 individual volunteer projects, included 919 volunteers and totaled 2,099 hours of service to Savannah. SERVE averages about 30 volunteer opportunities per quarter or about 100 a year. “What I love about SERVE is that every week is a fresh start. You don’t have to start the quarter with us or commit all the time, it’s just when you’re available and that’s really great,” Slaydon said. Functions range from 5-6 volunteers for a small event or 30-50 depending on the community’s needs.
SERVE offers volunteer opportunities from multiple facets. As a non-profit run by SCAD, student SERVE Coordinators develop different opportunities for students to participate in, and in many cases work with SCAD to find, publicize and support events. The sustainability coordinator collaborates with different sustainable initiatives like beach cleanups and street sweeps. This year, SERVE also cleaned the Springfield canal, the water channel in front of the Hive.
Blueprint, SERVE’s building-based program, works to rebuild and construct buildings and interiors around the area. H.E.Art (healing and education through art) projects provide art therapy for patients and families at Memorial hospital and other medical centers. SERVE additionally helps the community through their programs like Pet Project, Kids Cafe and Silver.
One of SERVE’s longest projects of the year is their Alternative Spring Break, a five day opportunity for a team of students to utilize their time and talents to serve a local non-profit. This year, a team of 10 students worked over 40 hours to accomplish a number of projects at the Savannah Children’s Theatre. “I’ve always loved working directly with students my entire professional career. I enjoy supervising and inspiring them to use the skills they are gaining through their leadership positions to develop into young professionals,” Slaydon said. The volunteers cultivated a diverse team of graphic designers, interior designers, production designers and architects.
After working with Residence Life and Housing for two years, Slaydon assumed the role of Assistant Director of Student Involvement. “I’ve done a lot of learning myself. I’m not originally from Savannah, so [SERVE] helped me and my students see that becoming apart of a community by volunteering and getting involved with the needs of the community that you want to call home, helps you feel at home,” Slaydon said.
Slaydon says her passion derives from wanting to help students feel apart of something. “Savannah is a place I want to call home for awhile,” she said. “Learning about all of the needs that the community and finding ways to break out of that bubble of classes and get to know the community you’re apart of has a positive impact on students and the community.”
With a new event every week with provided transportation, the organization encourages students to get involved in the community and collaborate with new people. Weekly opportunities vary from bagging groceries for the elderly to beach cleanups after Sand Arts, each catering to a multitude of interests. While SERVE offers a number of projects directly related to a variety of majors, Slaydon encourages her students to travel outside their comfort zone. “I had a coordinator give an example of an architecture student who didn’t think they could paint and they wanted to go to an art therapy session at the hospital. Anybody can make a positive impact by volunteering. It’s about the quality of time that you’re spending with other people,” Slaydon said.
As the school year comes to an end, SERVE hopes students will consider volunteering. “Seeing the transformation for students who volunteer for the first time or don’t know what to expect and immediately seeing after the event how they interpret or process or enjoyed it is really endearing,” Slaydon said. “Seeing volunteers who are nervous or hesitant turn around and ask when they can do it again because it was a blast is a really good feeling.”
Students and faculty can keep up with SERVE by following their Facebook and Instagram pages, @SCAD Serve. Their website, Scad.galaxydigital.com, allows volunteers to register for and organize events. By creating a profile, volunteers can log their hours and see what category the service falls under. The website creates a dashboard with the scope of the volunteer’s cumulative service hours and financial impact (standards set by the community that determine the financial value of hours contributed serving). The website continues to log hours and financial impact as long as volunteers remain at SCAD.
Humbled by the United Way Arts and Culture Award, SERVE thanks their volunteers and community partners for participating in the community. “We depend so much on the teamwork between the community and our volunteers and the coordinators. We acknowledge and appreciate our volunteers because we can’t do it without them,” Slaydon said.