The GIVE (Georgia College & State University Involved in Volunteer Efforts) Center serves as the volunteer/community service clearinghouse empowering students to make a difference by linking them to the needs of the community. The Center’s mission is to promote, encourage, support, develop and facilitate meaningful learning experiences for the campus community through service. They also try to instill in students a sense of citizenship and responsibility, volunteerism and community spirit.
The GIVE Center was started in the fall of 1997 by Ms. Kendal Stiles and Ms. Kate Van Cantfort, a student. It was created because of the need and the desire that students had in community service and volunteerism. In 1999, Templeton Foundation named the GIVE Center as one of a handful of model campus-based programs that help to build character. Dozens of campus organizations have participated in service efforts at GC&SU in the past six years, two-dozen new ongoing programs are in place, and a multitude of individual events have engaged thousands of students in their community. “Service learning” through community involvement is now the fastest-growing activity on the campus.
Under the leadership of GIVE Center director Kendall Stiles, GC&SU students are now the most prolific source of volunteerism in their community. More than 30 community agencies have been touched. For instance, the GIVE Center has taken over the leadership of the County’s “Relay for Life” with the American Cancer Society. In each of the past two years, this event has drawn 5,000 participants from a county with a population of 40,000.
One example of the university’s impact on the local community is GC&SU’s “Best Buddies” program. Best Buddies pairs a student volunteer with a mentally disabled friend from the community. Each year, numerous students engage in one-on-one friendships with a Best Buddy, and each spring, GC&SU students and their Buddies dress up for a catered dinner and formal dance.
GIVE volunteers are involved in many different areas of the Baldwin County community and learn much from their involvement. Opportunities exist for practicum experiences in community leadership through participation in public affairs and in partnerships with community and government agencies. Future plans for service learning at GC&SU include the option to add academic credit- bearing service experiences to regular coursework, a “win-win” proposition for both the student and the community.