Article by Laura Wortman
The Office of Community Engagement held its annual Good Neighbor Day, a community-wide day of service hosted by the University of Maryland Nov. 12. More than 800 volunteers and additional walk-ups showed up to help with completing around 40 different resident-identified projects. Together, over $12,000 was raised and over 300 pounds of non-perishable items were donated to different food banks.
Katie Little, the lead community engagement specialist, called this year’s Good Neighbor Day a complete success.
“The number one way we determine [success] is the impact that we’ve had on each project,” Little said. “So far the feedback we have gotten is all positive.”
Volunteers were able to help at various locations in College Park, including outside of American Legion Post 2017 on Route 1 where they planted pollinator gardens and installed bee hotels.
Another project, appropriately called Transcribe-a-thon, allowed volunteers to transcribe documents that were from a descendant of the founder of the University of Maryland, Charles Benedict Calvert.
At The Hotel at The University of Maryland, volunteers discussed mental and public health. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History provided an exhibit called Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World focused on viruses and response methods.
Projects are identified by community members themselves. This year, everyone who nominated a community project was a resident except for one. In order to be considered for a project, a nomination form must be filled out and submitted. The office of community engagement then reviews it to make sure it is a feasible project to support.
“Sometimes it also comes from our co-sponsors, which include the City of College Park and the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning,” Little said.
Terps Against Hunger, a student-run organization, ran a food drive for the first time at the nearby IKEA parking lot where over 17,000 meals were packaged.
Antonya Huntenburg da Silva, Media & Digital Communications Specialist for the Office of Community Engagement said the office started planning for this day as early as the end of July. The first step is putting out calls for nominations by promoting it in newspapers and social media.
“One of my favorite impacts of Good Neighbor Day is we bring together residents, students, council members, all kinds of different people that live, work and play in College Park and we bring them together and it connects them.” she said. “We have built lasting relationships in the community that go beyond Good Neighbor Day.”
The Office of Community and Engagement offers ongoing volunteer opportunities throughout the year including tutoring, College Park Community Food Bank and Riversdale Garden Aid.