Columbia students, volunteers come together for week of service

mlucas@thestate.comApril 21, 2013 

Seventy-six-year-old Margaret Marine stood by the curb in front of her Old Shandon home as a group of mostly young people pulled the shingles off her aging roof.

“This is wonderful,” she said, watching the buzz of activity Saturday.

Marine and her sister, Mary, have lived in the home on Cypress Street for more than 40 years but couldn’t afford to have the shingles replaced.

Just knowing they would have a new roof by day’s end was exciting for them both, she said.

“You don’t see many young people doing things like this,” she said. “And they are doing a beautiful job.”

Led by college students and area volunteers, the roof project was one of many acts of community service happening in Columbia on Saturday as part of the kickoff of One Columbia CityServe – a new citywide, grassroots initiative that aims to create new public service projects while building on those already in place.

Announced earlier this year by Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and business and community leaders, the weeklong event launched with such events as the installation of vegetable gardens at area elementary schools and the building of wheelchair ramps for those who need them.

Rachel Kitchens was one of about 30 students from the University of South Carolina, Benedict College and Midlands Technical College working on the Cypress Street project. She said reaching out to the community was an important part of being a student.

“I think it’s one of the unique things that we get to do,” said Kitchens, who was recently appointed secretary of community services for USC student government. “We get to interact with the city and community members, so I’d really like to see that happen even more in the coming year.”

Home Works of America site manager Chris Slota, who also worked on the Cypress Street project, said he thought a week that encourages citizens to take action was a “great idea.”

“(But) we should get people to do this all the time,” he said.

A volunteer for 20 years with Home Works, a nonprofit that repairs the homes of those in need, Slota was first inspired to participate in community service while a student at USC.

“You hear everything about Boston and the marathon runners who then went to the hospital to give blood, so yeah, I think things like donating blood and doing community service are important,” he said.

Kitchens agreed.

“It’s cool to see people come together in the midst of all that has happened this week,” she said.

Reach Lucas at (803) 771-8657.

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