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PCC soars past 50,000-hour community service goal
Story by Christina Holmes. Photos by Vern Uyetake and James Hill.
When PCC issued a challenge of 50,000 community service hours in less than a year as part of the college’s 50th Anniversary, few people doubted it could be done. It would take work but with a vibrant and dedicated college community, the goal seemed to be within reach.
What few people expected was that by the end of June a total of 71,841 hours would be tallied, smashing the 50,000-hour challenge.
The hours came from a multitude of efforts, including large, well-organized and executed Service Days – a total of 12, up from the three typically planned during a school year – which would draw up to 100 people per event. Those days included working at the Oregon Food Bank or cleaning up parks and schools, among other activities.
The bulk of the hours also came from individuals and on-campus groups who were inspired to serve because of the campaign and found volunteer opportunities to carry out the pledge. A conservative estimate shows that more than 3,230 people took part in the challenge during the year.
What surprised Sarah Tillery, PCC’s service-learning coordinator, the most were the number of people – staff and students – who frequently volunteer, even before the 50,000-hour idea came about, and who recorded their hours as part of the challenge.
“More than 10,000 hours came from random people (students and staff) doing what they do for the community by volunteering on a regular basis and who took the time to report it to our office,” said Tillery. “I would call these people very engaged workers who take time to work in the community.”
It’s been an exciting and busy year for the community service program, which saw Tillery and her staff orchestrate service days for a large number of people – everything from transportation to working with agencies that needed many volunteers.
“People liked these days because they don’t have to do the leg work of figuring out how to volunteer,” she added. “They knew that they could show up at the scheduled time and someone they trust would meet them and tell them what to do. We call these service days the gateway to service for people who have never volunteered before.”
Tillery said research also shows that students involved with service learning or who are connected with on-campus projects appear to have higher rates of retention in school. For some students giving back through service is a way to say “thank you” for those who support them financially and in other ways.
One group that directly benefited from PCC’s dedicated volunteers was The Children’s Book Bank, which strives to improve the literacy skills of low-income children by giving them books of their own before they reach kindergarten. The book bank collects, repairs, and packages used books. The books are then made available to families in need – free of charge.
“PCC’s support of The Children’s Book Bank has had a tremendous impact on our organization and the children that we serve,” said Robin Anderson, the book bank’s operations manager. “It takes one hour for us to fully prepare the books we provide to one child. Due to PCC’s support, we’ve been able to serve classroom upon classroom full of children. We’re grateful to have PCC as one of our advocates.”