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Members of the EKU campus community do much more than simply contribute to the local economy.

Students, faculty and staff contributed more than 7,500 hours of volunteer service in 2015-16, with 70 individuals earning honors from The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. They were recognized at a recent campus reception.

The White House established the President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) in 2003 to honor volunteers and promote volunteerism. The program is operated by the Office of the President of the United States, the Corporation for National and Community Service and Points of Light, an international non-profit promoting volunteerism. Eastern became a certifying institution for the PVSA in 2015.

The Shelby City Historic African American Cemetery, a project that began in 2013 with the EKU Danville campus and eventually encompassed volunteers from that community and the main campus, received a Gold Group Award.

The project, headed by Cindy Peck, Central Region director for regional campuses, soon grew into a large-scale community service initiative. When volunteer researchers discovered that the abandoned and desecrated cemetery contained the remains of slaves, they knew they had uncovered an historic treasure. Now, 2 ½ years later, the group has discovered 175 burial sites with names and researched family histories. They also have thoroughly cleaned the site, removing more than 60 tires, more than 70 trees, and hundreds of truckloads of brush. They also arranged to have the land surveyed and partially scanned with ground-penetrating radar.

The group’s youngest volunteer, eight-year-old Ray Spears, who volunteered 30 hours of his time on Saturdays, received a Bronze level award at the kids level.

Seven EKU students and recent graduates received individual Gold Awards for completing more than 250 hours of service: Calvin Andries, who works with a state 4-H chapter; Gabriella Chiarelli, who volunteered with the Memory Café and Alzheimer’s Association; Rebecca Gerwe; Brooke Hardt; Madison Koller, who worked with the American Sign Language community; Kevin Merrihew, who served more than 425 hours with the Humane Society, homeless shelters and other local charities; and Julia Mindlina.

A Silver Award went to a group of accounting students who served with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. As a group, the 35 students, working with faculty member Trish Isaacs, totaled 943 hours assisting low-income residents, persons with disabilities, and taxpayers who spoke only limited English.  

Five individual students received a Silver Award for completing more than 175 hours of service: Halle Graham, Brooke King, Macie New, Mari Kaitlin Palmer and Victoria Tackett.

Fifteen additional students, who each completed more than 100 hours of service individually, were honored for their work with various organizations: Taylor Barrickman, Dylan Bogard, Taylor Grayson, Sofia Guadagni, Morgan Hannah, Elizabeth Miller, Rebecca Simpson-Pinkston, Jenna Shearer, Madison Smith, Mackenzie Stovall, Kylie Tillett, Bailey Tipton, Cody Whittington, Feleasha Wink and Nathan Zachary.

In his remarks, President Benson said the students lived up the true mission of a university, as outlined by Daniel Coit Gilman when he was inaugurated as the first president of Johns Hopkins University in 1876: “It means a wish for less misery among the poor, less ignorance in schools, less bigotry in the temple, less suffering in the hospital, less fraud in business, less folly in politics.”


Inset Photo: VITA volunteers with their Silver Award