Over 250 students participated in the Student Government Association (SGA) sponsored Good Neighbor Day, which brought together University of Mary Washington students and the Fredericksburg community for an afternoon of community service.
The event, held Saturday, March 16, was organized by SGA Director of Community Outreach Kagan McSpadden, began with opening speeches by President Rick Hurley and Councilman George Solley.
Hurley, ready to volunteer in his jeans and sweatshirt, began by thanking the students for their participation.
“I think this is a wonderful way to give back and show the community how much we appreciate being present in their home,” said Hurley.
Solley spoke on behalf of the City Council, expressing his gratitude for the students’ commitment.
“We’ve always thought that we had an excellent relationship between the city and the University of Mary Washington on an organizational level,” said Solley. “What you guys are doing is taking that to a whole new level.”
Solley ended by telling the crowd, “We really look forward to continue the good relationship between the City and the University.”
McSpadden dismissed the 17 teams to their leaders after the speeches and they left Ball Circle to go to their locations.
Most groups traveled to specific homes in the College Heights area, while a few worked on campus behind Randolph and Mason Halls and at the amphitheater.
Students from the UMW swim team and the UMW co-ed fraternity, Alpha Mu Sigma, worked with grounds keeping employees behind Randolph and Mason Halls to remove invasive species around the trees, which included vines of ivy.
The UMW girls’ basketball team removed large branches and trash from around the amphitheater and used leaf blowers to clear the area of debris.
Sophomore biology majors Amanda Witmer and Aubrey Howland both worked around the amphitheater.
Twelve of the girls from the team were there, according to Witmer.
“We wanted to make it a big team thing,” said Witmer.
“It’s definitely rewarding,” said Howland. “It makes me feel better to help out.”
UMW groundskeeper Joni Wilson discussed the difference students were making by working behind Randolph and Mason in an area that faces Sunken Avenue.
Wilson also spoke about the positive interaction between her staff and the students, which does not occur every day, according to Wilson.
“Everyone becomes a real person,” said Wilson. “Sometimes that gets lost.”
At a home on Augustine Street, Sammy the Eagle, UMW’s mascot, and Hurley, along with current and future SGA executive cabinet members, worked with a family to create a spice garden in their front lawn.
Residents Michael and Kara Horne and their two children, Liam and Maeve, moved to Fredericksburg in July and said they have been happy in the area.
The family found out about Good Neighbor Day through the flyers hung throughout the area.
Michael Horne explained to Hurley and the students what they would be doing and handed out tools for everyone to start working in the yard.
Horne said he was delighted that the students were able to help with his garden and spoke about how welcoming the community was when they moved to Fredericksburg while expecting their second child.
“It’s a wonderful neighborhood,” said Horne.
Radwan Jarrar, junior political science major and next year’s director of community outreach for SGA, discussed his support for student involvement in community service in Fredericksburg, while helping with the garden on Augustine Street.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to show the community that we’re not only here to study and learn, but also to help them out and to get involved as much as we can,” Jarrar said.
McSpadden and SGA President Jeremy Thompson both had positive feedback about the event.
“It rained, but it didn’t ruin anything,” Thompson said, calling his reaction to the event’s success a “proud parent” moment.
McSpadden was also enthusiastic about the event’s turnout.
“I never imagined how great the actual event would be,” said McSpadden.
McSpadden noted the amount of support from the Fredericksburg community and the positive representation of the university throughout the event.
“The student volunteers made an impact and showed Fredericksburg that UMW does care about our neighbors,” McSpadden said.
Students who participated received a t-shirt and coupons to McDonalds and Sweet Frog for volunteering, as well as a free water bottle paid for by the Center for Honor, Leadership and Service featuring their logo, according to Thompson.
To conclude the event, the Cosmonauts and Save the Arcadian performed in the Underground and a barbecue was held for volunteers.
Meredith Beckett, President of the College Heights Civic Association, thanked the students for their work and McSpadden for organizing the event.
“I think this is another positive thing that shows the relationship between the community and Mary Washington is working,” said Beckett.