A group of mask-wearing students gathered in September – carefully distanced – to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty, and do outdoor service projects for Into the Streets. The autumn tradition is hosted by COAR (Community Outreach and Resources), the mission of which is to provide support for community engagement, volunteerism, and service.
“At a time when we are all unable to do many of the things that give us joy, satisfaction, and focus,” said Leslie Martin, faculty director of the Center for Community Engagement, “volunteering reminds us that we are all still connected and able to work together for the betterment of our shared community.”
The center, which opened last year, helps build and strengthen bridges between Mary Washington and organizations in the Fredericksburg area. Several of its community partners are navigating budget cuts and layoffs as a result of the pandemic, so this fall they needed help more than ever.
Nearly 30 students participated, fewer than during a normal year, but the university’s commitment to community service and engagement is as strong as ever, President Troy Paino said. “It’s a fundamentally important part of what Mary Washington is all about.”
Three groups set out from campus to weed, plant, mulch, and pick up trash for Tree Fredericksburg and Friends of the Rappahannock. The outdoor sites were within walking distance of the university, and students could easily spread out from one another. Students collected more than 100 pounds of trash from trails near the Rappahannock River.
A three-year veteran of the Into the Streets, Paige Beidelman ’21 spread mulch for Tree Fredericksburg. Even with this year’s smaller group and the challenges of the pandemic, the spirit of the event – and its focus on service and connection – remained unchanged, she said. “It’s our job to do whatever we can to bring that community together again.”