A Tusculum College class recently learned about poverty in the local area and the importance of helping others through their experiences in community service in Greene County.
Projects for ARCH (the Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness), Greene County Habitat for Humanity and Plaza Towers have served as the classroom for the students in the “Service-Learning in East Tennessee” course, which had for its focus, “Greeneville Now - and a Vision for the Future.”
“This class has allowed us to learn from each other, gain a greater understanding of the affects of poverty and different aspects of community service,” said Glenn Vicary, one of the students in the class. “I think it has affected everyone in a positive way.”
At the beginning of the course, which began in mid-March, the students heard from Randy Harrell, president of the Greene County Partnership. Harrell spoke to the group about the current state of the community and addressed the current economic conditions, which have caused hardships on some families in the county.
Harrell also discussed the Partnership as an organization, its role in economic development, tourism, education and environmental issues and told the group about several upcoming projects. He also discussed the Partnership’s many volunteers and opportunities to serve the community through its programs and activities.
In preparing to go out into the community, the students read a text about the different economic classes and generational poverty. The students then picked a community issue of interest and wrote a policy paper about that issue. The students also interviewed community service providers to learn about the issues facing Greeneville and Greene County.
The students’ service in the community began with helping prepare a Greene County Habitat for Humanity home for occupation. Students did minor repairs and painting in the home as well as landscaping around the home. Some students also helped inside the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, sorting donated clothes and helping with storage of donated items.
Painting, sanding, caulking and even the installation of bathroom fixtures were among the many tasks completed by the students who helped rehab a house on Snapps Ferry Road, which will be used as a transitional home by ARCH. The students also helped landscape around the home, which had been donated to ARCH by Habitat for Humanity. The house had been gutted by a Tusculum College service-learning class late last fall.
Helping senior citizens and having a positive impact on the environment was the focus of the students’ next project. The students distributed and helped install compact light bulbs to residents of Plaza Towers. The light bulbs were donated by the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Mosheim.
During the class, the students also completed journals, writing their reflections about their experiences in serving others and concluded the class with a presentation attended by representatives of some of the organizations they assisted and other community representatives.
Through their service, the students said they were humbled by their experience and learned how much difference one person’s efforts can make in helping improve someone else’s life. They said they also gained a great appreciation of what they have and a greater awareness of the need to help others in the community.
John Gregory said that he had not thought much about homelessness, considering it a problem mostly found in large cities. “Through this class, we have realized there is a huge need that is hidden.” Gregory said he also learned it was easy to get involved in service and helping others through organizations and agencies.
Calvin Britt said he had also not thought that much about community service prior to the class, but he learned its importance. “When you see the impact of your efforts on someone’s face, it makes you want to do more.”