Service Raleigh Day Rooted in Years of Tradition

Volunteers plant flowers

Like many successful initiatives at NC State, Service Raleigh started with students.

What began as a handful of friends volunteering together has become a yearly tradition that benefits nearly 70 community partners, including museums, preschools, food banks, faith communities and parks.

Now in its twenty-first year, this annual day of community service involves over two thousand volunteers, and has more than doubled in size since its founding to become the largest student-run service organization in the Triangle. For an area with several major universities, that’s saying something.

Sponsored by the Park Scholarships, the Goodnight Scholars Program, NC State Inter-Residence Council and local donors, Service Raleigh began with a simple mission: to address the needs of the community and inspire volunteers to commit to sustained, continuous service that speaks to them.

Service Raleigh takes place every year in April, and many participants opt for outdoor opportunities like working with Raleigh Parks and Recreation and the Well-Fed Garden. Some groups, like the City of Raleigh, have been engaged with Service Raleigh for over a decade. Some, like Neighbor to Neighbor Outreach, became involved just last year. “We see this university as part of the Neighbor to Neighbor family,” says Reverend Royce Hathcock, executive director. “Everyone is important and everyone is necessary.”

Andrea Weigl is on the board at Method Child Development Center, a small nonprofit that provides childcare to a diverse group of working families, and one of Service Raleigh’s oldest partners. “One year, when we had rainy weather, Service Raleigh volunteers ended up cleaning the classrooms. The center got a ‘superior score’ during its next sanitation inspection. That wouldn’t have been possible without those volunteers’ efforts.”

“We’re always so happy to get volunteers for our annual Spring Cleanup of southeast Raleigh roadsides,” said Chelsea Arey, who coordinates the 86IT Anti-Litter Campaign for Wake County. “We sincerely appreciate the help. The volunteers are always hard-working, and help us make it an awesome event every year.”

The benefits go both ways.

Leadership and team-building skills developed through Service Raleigh are valuable to future employers. High-impact learning experiences — like service projects, internships and study abroad programs — help make NC State students career-ready after graduation.

We’re so thrilled to host young people who are committed to serving the community.

Sarah Ho, assistant director of the Park Scholarships program

The future of Service Raleigh is open source. Organizers and co-chairs have been documenting their processes, taking careful note of challenges and triumphs. Soon this document — a how-to guide for motivating, managing and moving thousands of volunteers — will be freely available to anyone.

“With such a long history, we’ve learned a lot along the way, and wanted to make that information available to anyone looking to do something like this on their campus or elsewhere in the community,” says Sarah Ho, assistant director of the Park Scholarships program.

In addition, Service Raleigh will be open-sourcing the code from their website, which was student-built and is still maintained by current students. Site features include volunteer sign ups, partner registration, volunteer-to-project matching algorithms, and other tools that will be made available to anyone who wants to use the code for their own projects.

Service Raleigh uses Facebook and Instagram to drive sign-ups, and hosts a registration table at Talley Student Union. Sidewalk chalk on campus also helps get the word out.

“We’re always looking for ways to invite more school groups, community organizations, and other folks to come out and serve Raleigh with us,” said Ho.

This year, Service Raleigh takes place on Saturday, April 14, 2018. While online registration is closed, there’s still a chance to join this day of service! Just come to Talley Student Union at 7:45 a.m. that day to sign up and be placed at a volunteer site. 

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