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Building connections and giving back during UGA Public Service and Outreach Week of Service

This year’s UGA Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Week of Service brought more than 200 UGA employees together to assist local organizations and give back to the Athens-Clarke County community and around the state.

“It has been rewarding hearing all the positive feedback from the individuals who served throughout the week,” said event coordinator Josh Podvin, the assistant director for community partnerships in the Office of Service-Learning. “The Public Service and Outreach faculty and staff have appreciated the expanded opportunities to serve this year, and the variety of service sites means there is something for everyone.”

This was the second PSO Week of Service, which grew from the PSO Day of Service which began in 2015. This year, from Nov. 13 to 17, 156 employees across UGA’s Public Service and Outreach units served at 17 direct service sites in and around Athens, some of the sites included the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials, Books for Keeps, City of Hope, Love.Craft Athens, UGArden, and the Athens-Clarke County Animal Shelter. A team also cleaned up the roadside around the Tallassee Exit on Loop 10 to plant daffodil bulbs, which will be blooming this spring. Public Service and Outreach faculty and staff stationed around the state participated in service projects in their communities as well. 

“I had the opportunity to work with adults who have disabilities at Love.Craft Athens, a nonprofit I had heard of but wasn’t very familiar with,” said Rhiannon Eades, public relations coordinator in the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s office of communications. “I am so impressed with the organization’s mission and really enjoyed meeting their crew. I would love to continue supporting this organization.”

An additional 45 individuals also contributed to the week’s holiday supply drive, helping gather nearly 240 food items that will go the Greek Life food pantry and more than 120 toys and games, which will go to a new “toybrary” that is being sponsored by several organizations in the community.

“I’m excited to think about the passing motorists looking down and enjoying the colorful flowers on display along the roadway,” said Roy Parry, senior writer with the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, who joined the daffodil planting team. “It also makes me proud to be making a difference in the community.”

In total, PSO faculty and staff provided 379 hours of direct service throughout the week, an estimated value of $10,800 benefiting our communities.

PSO Week of Service participants also supported Turkeypalooza, the annual Thanksgiving event organized by the Athens Community Council on Aging (ACCA) and Campus Kitchen at UGA with support of UGA Public Service and Outreach. During the year, Campus Kitchen at UGA prepares meals and delivers those meals along with bags of groceries to families identified by ACCA experiencing food insecurity in our community. Those efforts are ramped up before Thanksgiving.

“Our long-term partnership with UGA Public Service helps ACCA ensure that everyone in our community has the opportunity to age well,” said Eve Anthony, CEO of the Athens Community Council on Aging. “From once-a-year events like Turkeypalooza to the weekly support of Campus Kitchen at UGA, we know great things are accomplished through collaboration.”

During Turkeypalooza, a team of 23 Public Service and Outreach Student Scholars gathered at the Athens Community Council on Aging to help package the grocery bags with the canned food and essentials, and faculty and staff had two shifts at UGArden to help harvest more than 450 pounds of collards, which were washed and sorted to be included in the prepared Turkeypalooza meals and grocery bags.

“Many hands make light work,” said Leslie Hale, public service assistant with the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, who joined one of the UGArden shifts. “I love knowing that I joined with fellow professionals to provide a holiday meal to families and seniors facing food insecurity.”

This year, Campus Kitchen partnered with the College and Career Academy to cook turkeys for Turkeypalooza. Using the facility’s new smoker, Clarke County School District students smoked 24 turkeys, which became the centerpieces for 180 prepared meals. On top of these meals, Campus Kitchen delivered 300 grocery bags of fresh food to families in the community and delivered 70 bundles of collards (weighing about a pound each) to the Clarke County School District to include in its food pantry distribution.

“Working to support our state is part of the UGA Public Service and Outreach mission every day,” Podvin said, “but this week is a great opportunity to also connect with our colleagues across PSO units while working together to make a difference.”

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Wes Mayer
Josh Podvin
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