Central students during previous service day.

About one-third of the students, faculty and staff at Central College will be somewhere other than the campus in Pella today.

A group of about 650 from Central will be fanned out in dozens of other central Iowa communities performing a host of tasks as part of the college’s annual Service Day. Cheri Doane is coordinating the one-day effort.

Doane says, “It ranges everything from outdoor work like landscaping and tree planting and preparing the earth for gardens to projects where people will sit down and chat with people who are aging at long-term care facilities.” Other projects include transplanting native prairie plants at Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge, performing music for people with Down Syndrome and transcribing records for a Marion County cemetery and entering them into a database.

“We send out a notice to our community partners in January and ask them to propose a project,” Doane says. “We try to fulfill every project that is submitted but this year we had so many, we had to wait-list a few projects. We do have around 70 projects, requiring different skills and abilities.” Volunteers from Central will contribute to projects in Pella, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, the Des Moines area, Ottumwa, Newton and Otley. Project sites include schools, food banks, churches, community gardens, parks and senior centers. Doane, the director of Central’s Center for Community-based Learning, says the Service Day is a win-win.

“Many, many times, community organizations simply don’t have the staff to meet particular needs so we know they win,” Doane says. “We know that our students, faculty and staff win because they have an enjoyable day and they get to know a group of people with whom they might not already be connected.” She says this 12th annual, single-day event provides hundreds of hours of volunteer service, valued around $75,000.

(Photo courtesy of Central College)