Alumni and students come together for a day of philanthropic service.
Many of us start to feel more generous this time of year. But, for some, giving to others is a year-round commitment.
UCF students dedicate their time through Volunteer UCF, and alumni through the UCF Alumni Community Volunteers Chapter, among other organizations. Whether it’s building homes for underprivileged families, stocking shelves at food pantries or collecting and distributing school supplies to children in need, there are always plenty of Knights willing to lend a hand.
During one special day each year, usually in October, students and alumni join forces for a campus-wide day of service called Knights Give Back, sponsored by the Student Government Association, Volunteer UCF and the Office of Student Involvement.
Since 2007, the program has provided organizations with nearly 2,200 volunteers, 7,400 hours of service and saved the city of Orlando more than $150,000.
This year, on Oct. 9, about 800 Knights volunteered at locations around Central Florida, as well as Dallas, TX.
“Participation has been great over the past four years,” says Shane Juntunen, associate director in the Office of Student Involvement. “Our numbers have more than doubled since the first event, and we anticipate the program to continue to grow. I am most excited to see the increase in alumni support and participation.”
In fact, the UCF Alumni Community Volunteers Chapter made it their initiative to take the Knights Give Back program nationwide.
The original goal of the program was to have more than 1,000 students, staff and alumni participate. Based on its growth, Juntunen says it looks like they will be able to accomplish that goal by next year.
A Day of Giving Back
Chair Mikaela Nix, ’04, and other members of the UCF Black Alumni Chapter and the UCF Hispanic Alumni Chapter, along with students in the John T. Washington Honor Society, gave their time to Knights Give Back bagging trash during a cleanup of Orlando’s Parramore area.
“We wanted to show that we have young people who want to give back to an impoverished area, which we can help and foster and watch grow,” she says. “It allows our whole city to take part in UCF spirit and attitude.”
UCF senior Laura Dixon and some of her fellow 4EVER KNIGHTS members raked and bagged pine needles and cleaned the activities center at Quest’s Camp Thunderbird.
Quest’s Camp Thunderbird provides a real summer camp experience for adults and children with special needs. Since they’re not typically eligible to attend traditional camps, Camp Thunderbird campers with Down syndrome, autism, mental retardation, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities get a chance to learn new skills and focus on the remarkable things they can do.
“Seeing the end result after a long day’s work, and knowing that we helped beautify the surroundings for the incoming campers felt awesome!” says Dixon.
The Best Gift of All
If you’ve ever volunteered your time for a worthy cause, you know how rewarding the experience can be. There’s no gift quite like the satisfaction you get from helping others.
“Volunteers are amazed not only by the positive impact they have on others, but how much they also learn about themselves in the process,” says Juntenen.
Allen Lane, ’97, and his wife, Joyce, couldn’t agree more. They try to volunteer at least once a month, usually with the UCF Alumni Community Volunteers Chapter. Allen says they’ve been regular volunteers for at least the past four years. They’ve also participated in Knights Give Back for three out of its four years. This year, they helped paint 400 feet of hallways at the Center for Independent Living, which helps people with disabilities achieve their goals for independent living.
“The walls were pretty drab, so it was nice to get in there and give them a fresh coat of paint,” says Allen. “Plus, this particular charity is tight on funds and doesn’t have the resources to go out and hire painters. We were able to help cut their costs so they can use that money more effectively on other necessities.”
The Lanes enjoy volunteering because it gives them a chance to get out in the community and meet some of the people responsible for running local charities. Through that experience, they’ve learned a lot about what the charities do and who they support. “That’s what keeps us coming back,” says Allen.
Sorting food at the Second Harvest Food Bank’s main warehouse is a favorite of the Lanes. They also like sorting school supplies for A Gift for Teaching. But, no matter what the task, they’re up for it.
“People in my position, and probably many readers of Pegasus, don’t need charity,” says Lane. “[We’re] able to give back to the community, and that drives [our] motivation for volunteering. We try to help out wherever and whenever we can.”
Up next for the Lanes? Washing windows, organizing props and cleaning the theater area on Dec. 11 to help the Orlando Repertory Theater prepare for its spring performance. They’ll be there with members of the ever-growing UCF Alumni Community Volunteers Chapter, and all alumni are invited to participate.
2010 Service Projects
Albin Polasek Museum
Avian Reconditioning Center
Boys Town Central Florida
Center for Independent Living
City of Oviedo
Feral Friends Cat Community Alliance (Dallas, TX)
A Gift for Teaching
Habitat for Humanity
Harvest Time International
Keep Pinellas Beautiful
Keep Seminole Beautiful
Keep Tampa Beautiful
Melbourne Beach Cleanup
Mending Hearts Inc.
Parramore Area Cleanup
Pet Rescue by Judy
Quest’s Camp Thunderbird
Ronald McDonald House Share-a-Meal
Society of St. Andrew Space Coast Beach Cleanup
Knights Helping Knights
UCF students are not only giving back to the Central Florida community — they’re also giving back to each other.
The Knights Helping Knights Initiative, a program offered through UCF Student Development and Enrollment Services, provides students with resources they may need for some common emotional stressors.
For example, if students are struggling financially and are overcome with stress about their situation, Knights Helping Knights has resources that can teach them how to manage their stress, how to find a job and even help them discover other ways to provide themselves with an income (e.g., through a yard sale).
In addition, Knights Helping Knights offers a Food Pantry, which stocks food and other kitchen items (napkins, Ziploc bags, plastic utensils, etc.), as well as hygiene projects and gently used clothing donated by students and faculty members.
The Knights Helping Knights Pantry is also provided in cooperation with the UCF Foundation, Student Union, Counseling Center, Office of Student Involvement and Volunteer UCF.
“We have had a great deal of response from registered student organizations, different colleges, departments and local housing communities with regard to hosting donation drives and creating awareness of the pantry,” says Naomi Parks, its coordinator.
Since its humble beginnings in a utility closet in the Student Union in spring 2009, the pantry has been run by student volunteers and a LEAD Scholars class, and has helped hundreds of students in need. In August of this year, the pantry moved into its much larger space in Ferrell Commons.