Staff Editorial: Lending a hand at home

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November 17, 2006

2:28 AM

The College’s idyllic campus, filled with historic brick buildings and brilliant fall foliage, can seem like a place frozen in time, immune to the often unpleasant realities of the outside world. Unfortunately, this peaceful setting can mask the harsh reality of life on the other side of our campus walls, making it easy to overlook an almost invisible group of our neighbors: Williamsburg’s homeless.

p. For many readers, the “Reality Tour” sponsored by Williamsburg Homeless and Indigent described in the article “Homeless in our own backyard” on page B1 will be a shock. Williamsburg is a small, quiet town full of tourists, students and retirees, far from the bleak urban landscapes that most people associate with the homeless. The truth is that homelessness is a problem everywhere, and it can be even more devastating in a small community without the infrastructure to effectively aid the less fortunate.

p. While Williamsburg may be small, it can offer an extensive network of services to people in need, largely due to the College and its tremendously dedicated students. William and Mary students contribute an astounding amount of time and energy to charitable organizations. Last year, students contributed 322,000 hours of community service. Over 75 percent of undergraduates have volunteered during their time here, and 90 percent plan to volunteer after graduation. The College maintains partnerships with over 90 non-profit groups. This year, 36 graduates joined the Peace Corps, the 10th most in the nation for a medium-sized school.

p. Charities and philanthropies are such a central part of William and Mary life that it is easy to take the generosity of students here for granted. Every weekend brings another fund raiser, date auction or Greek philanthropy event. It seems as if every student is writing letters, or tutoring, or chairing a committee for an organization. Not every college is home to students who are so eager to turn their considerable talents to the benefit of others. If you are one of the thousands of William and Mary students who volunteer, take a moment during your

p. Thanksgiving break to reflect on everything you have done this year and realize that you have made a difference. If you aren’t volunteering yet, resolve to get involved with one of the many organizations on campus.

p. Volunteers are indispensable to dozens of worthy causes, from St. Jude Children’s Hospital to Building Tomorrow: Destination Kampala to the Alan Buzkin Memorial Bone Marrow Drive. All of these groups make the world a better place in their own way, but two student-run groups deserve special recognition for their important—but often less glamorous—work with local residents in need.

p. The Hunger Awareness Task Force is a student organization working to fight hunger by performing community service, supporting national groups and raising awareness. Their annual Hunger Awareness Week helps students realize that even in our wealthy society, poverty may be right next door. Green and Gold Christmas is an annual event that brings together College students and local disadvantaged children for a day of holiday cheer. Several hundred children from the area are brought to the College for crafts, games, food and presents while their parents enjoy a well deserved break.

p. For most students, Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate with big meals and a warm fire, but not everyone is so fortunate. Students do a tremendous job, but there is always more work to be done.

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