Service plunge

Sprouting Hope Community Garden just outside Hungry Mother State Park has been the recipient of volunteer assistance since its inception in 2012, including students from Emory & Henry College. The college sent hundreds of first-year students out into the community this week, including to the garden in Marion for its annual Service Plunge.

Through selfless service, Emory & Henry students shine in the function of what late President George H.W. Bush described as “a thousand points of light.”

They are encouraged by the college to be agents of social change in their communities and the world through volunteerism, and this week took part in the annual Service Plunge.

Organized by the college’s Appalachian Center for Civic Life, Service Plunge involves teams of first-year students and their faculty coordinators going to various locations that represent a theme of their first-year courses.

For example, the Energy & Sustainability course, led by Jim Duchamp, went to the Blue Ridge Discovery Center to aid in establishing a new nature trail along Dell’s Branch. The students helped by removing non-native invasive plants, spreading gravel, removing trash and other tasks.

Two groups of students came to Smyth County to work on trails at Hungry Mother State Park and help out at Sprouting Hope Community Garden located just outside the park’s boundaries. The Mind-Body Connection class, led by Megan Hamilton, went to the garden while Resilience in the Age of Connectivity, led by Jamie Ferguson, did trail work.

Sprouting Hope began with a strong foundation in 2012 as a partnership between Project Crossroads and the Hungry Mother Lutheran Retreat Center and achieved non-profit status in 2015. Emory & Henry College has been involved with the garden for several years and students this week braved a rainy day to weed, plow, build fence, and harvest crops such as blueberries and tomatoes.

“Service Plunge is a reflection of Emory & Henry's mission and values of service to others in our region and the larger world,” said Maggie Obermann, civic engagement coordinator. “It's an important opportunity for new students to make connections with community organizations in nearby towns to better understand themselves as part of the larger community while also bonding with classmates, faculty and staff.”

“It is our hope at the Appalachian Center that Service Plunge will be a spark that ignites students' continued engagement in ongoing meaningful opportunities to make Southwest Virginia thrive,” she said.

During Service Plunge, 18 different locations in Washington, Smyth and Grayson counties and in Bristol, Tenn., were visited by student volunteers. A barbecue luncheon was served on campus following the teams’ return to reward the hard-working students, staff and faculty.

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