Volunteers complete service projects for over 100 area schools and non-profit organizations.
By Jane Hess Collins
Seven thousand people can’t be wrong.
Make it seven thousand ten – the number of volunteers who signed up for Greater DC Cares’ 18th Annual Servathon on Saturday morning, April 23. And despite rainclouds and drizzle, several hundred of them showed up at Dupont Circle that afternoon for an after-party presented by 501seats to celebrate their accomplishments and bond with each other over hot dogs.
Laura Johnston and her friends, most of whom grew up in St. Louis, signed up together to pretty up the outside of Parkview Community Center. Laura and her friends wanted to connect with their new home in the nation’s capital. “I know a lot of people here are transplants and so it’s a good way for us to give back to the area we’re currently living in and feel like we’re part of it,” she said.
Other volunteers brought their friends as well. Although Steve Wong and his friends were tired after cleaning up the outside of Boys Town of Washington, his buddy Teresa Spencer still viewed it as “a good way to spend my morning.” Steve and his friends were inspired to try Servathon after another friend told him about it. The pals from McLean Bible Church help each other with volunteer projects. “Whenever there’s a friend that sponsors something we just all go and jump in and serve,” Steve said, adding that their friendship “makes it more fun and easier to go out and do something.”
Last year’s Servathon attracted 4,000 volunteers. Alicia Lee, Greater DC Cares’ Manager of Special Events and Communications, was thrilled at the 7,000 registrants this year.
Why such an increase? “Everyone is into service,” Lee explained. “If you look at volunteerism across the region, it’s getting bigger and better and greater.” Volunteers, Lee said, know about the critical issues that the area’s non-profits and schools address, and volunteering with them, even for a day, empowers them to do something for these organizations. “They may not be able to donate and write a big check,” Lee admitted, but “they can register to volunteer and paint a wall or interact with senior.”
Good thing, because there’s a huge demand for volunteer work. A lot of DC area schools don’t have the money for maintenance projects like painting lockers or teachers’ lounges, and those are projects that volunteers can do.
The Servathon also does double-duty as a fundraiser. Volunteers pay a nominal registration fee to participate, and are encouraged to ask friends and family to contribute. Lauren Conte, Greater DC Cares’ Manager of Resource Development, likens it to a walkathon or a marathon. “The event itself is the biggest thing we do in service throughout the year,” Conte said. In addition to the community impact, Servathon raises awareness and celebrates volunteerism. “That’s part of the reason why we made [Servathon] part of National Volunteer Week this year,” Conte added.
Greater DC Cares operates at least one program nearly every day of the year, and the funds raised though Servathon pay for the event as well as their other service projects.
Jane Hess Collins inspires people to contribute through writing, speaking and (hopefully) example. She also writes the “Get Out and Give Back” newspaper column for several community newspapers, conducts workshops to match service projects with client interests, and has established game nights for at-risk families throughout the country. You can contact her at www.getoutandgiveback.com.