In honor of the National Day of Service and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the University hosted a WEServe Week of Service. University students, alumni, friends, and family were invited to participate in acts of community service all across the world.
The driving force behind this operation was Associate Director of Alumni Parent Events and Director of Reunion Programs Makaela Kingsley. Kingsley said that she recognized that because so many University alumni are already involved in community service, the University should facilitate the combining of alumni efforts.
“The concept was uniquely translatable to geographic areas of all sizes; unlike some of our events which require a critical mass to be successful, these community service projects could engage alumni, parents, and students in cities or towns with as few as one or two Wesleyan people,” Kingsley wrote in an email to The Argus.
The project began in November, when people began serving as Project Captains. In exchange for Captains organizing an event, the University agreed to help advertise the event in an effort to involve as many alumni as possible. Kingsley created a website that aggregated the various community service events taking place and allowed people to sign up for them.
“By the first week in January, we had 39 projects on the WEServe calendar, and we used these same channels to advertise the projects and seek registrants until the Jan. 16 sign-up deadline,” Kingsley wrote.
Projects were organized all over the United States, as well as in Greece and Nicaragua. Project Captains graduated in years ranging from the Class of ’55 to the Class of ’14.
Sofia Warren ’13 assisted as Student Coordinator of Publicity for WEServe. Although she joined the staff only a week prior to the events, Kingsley credits Warren for her assistance.
“A lot of [the volunteers] are going to soup kitchens or reading to children or [participating in events] more conventionally thought of as service work, but there’s also some that are more out of the box, which is really nice, because people have adapted things that they’re already doing to kind of think about it in different ways,” Warren said.
One notable event, which took place in Boston, involved COMPASS for kids, an organization that works to improve children’s education. Alumni helped brainstorm ideas for a social media plan for the organization.
An event in Middletown involved the Wesleyan Alliance for Generational Exchange (WesAGE), which goes to One Macdonough Place, an assisted living home, every Friday to foster relationships between University students and residents of the home. Although the event occurs weekly, the social hour was posted on the WEServe website, encouraging more people to attend and to spread awareness about the group.
At One Macdonough Place, students played dominoes and bridge with residents and were served homemade cake and eggnog. Genelle Faulkner ’13 said she was encouraged to attend the event after talking to Shane Donahue ’14, who served as the Project Captain of the event. Approximately eight other Wesleyan students attended the event.
“I really liked how easy it was to just talk to people or start a game of dominoes,” Faulkner wrote in an email to The Argus. “My favorite part was when [a resident] had Sofia and I searching the room for all her artwork, so that she could look at them again and talk about them. She was so happy to share her work with us, and they were really good. I was happy to be someone she could share her art with.”
Kingsley wrote that WEServe was a success and that she plans to make it an annual event. The Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement and Events also supports community service events throughout the year.
“My goals for next year will be to line up projects in other areas (Asia, the Midwest, Texas, New England, and more), recruit more undergraduate Project Captains, and expand the diversity of community service opportunities,” Kingsley wrote. “In particular, I’d like to see Wesleyan people use their professional expertise to ‘do good’ in their home communities.”
Next year, Kingsley said that WEServe plans to double the number of projects that were done this year and to inspire more alumni and friends to participate.