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Bearcats give back through annual UC Serves day

Gardens blossomed and school kids giggled as hundreds of UC volunteers made an urban impact during a day of community service

University of Cincinnati’s campus was a little quieter on May 17, as more than 375 faculty and staff volunteers spent the day around the Tristate forging new friendships and rolling up their sleeves during the sixth annual UC Serves Day.  

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet other staff and faculty at UC and work together for a good cause,” says Theresa Culley, professor and head of UC’s Department of Biological Sciences. She volunteered at one of the more than 44 nonprofit projects throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

“We had the fortune of being paired with the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, where we learned about their fascinating history in providing education to blind women in Ohio to the Braille printing house they have today. It was an honor to spend our day working hard to improve their landscape and garden.”

Similar sentiments were echoed throughout the day as hundreds of UC Serves volunteers planted trees, painted walls, built structures and played with local school children as they represented UC while making a positive urban impact — one of the goals of UC’s strategic direction called Next Lives Here.

Man wearing a hard hat kneels between two brick beams in a new house construction.

Talented volunteers with carpentry skills helped build a house for the Habitat for Humanity project in Price Hill. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

“UC Serves is always a great way for staff and faculty to lead by example and act as role models for our students in service to others,” says Fran Larkin, director of UC’s Center for Community Engagement, which co-hosted the event in partnership with UC staff organization Emerging Leaders in Student Affairs. “This event gives staff and faculty the opportunity to meet new people, expand our campus networks and deepen our connection to the community.”

Two people sit at a table sewing costumes for large puppets standing in the background.

Handy volunteers help create new costumes for Cincinnati's Madcap Puppets.

Since 2014, the annual event connects with other university community engagement and volunteer efforts, including UC's Clean Up Cincy student groups who work to beautify the city.

This year, staff and faculty who wanted a hands-on building experience worked with Habitat for Humanity and more than a dozen landscape beautification projects around the city while others worked with children during field days at several local elementary schools. 

Helpers who preferred to stay indoors sewed costumes for Cincinnati’s nonprofit Madcap Puppets, cleaned and organized in two local libraries, served at the Cincinnati Freestore Foodbank or created fleece blankets for Hospice. 

It all comes back

Eight people stand around a giant mound of mulch in a garden.

Helpful landscapers felt exhausted but happy after a day sprucing up the May Street Orchard beautification project in Walnut Hills. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

There were even opportunities to work around animals — organizing stable equipment for therapy horses at Milestones Equestrian Achievement Center in Northern Kentucky, weeding the play yards at the local SPCA or building chicken coops for the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation.

A woman stands nect to a horse in a barn.

One volunteer had fun horsing around at Milestones Equestrian Achievement Center.

And what’s a day of hard work without a delicious meal to refuel? Area restaurants that donated lunches to all the Bearcats included Al-Madina Market & Grill, Piada Italian Street Food, Currito, O’Bryon's Bar & Grill, LaRosa's pizza, BIBIBOP Asian Grill, Fortune Noodle House and Indian food from Injoy Street Food.

As in past years, volunteers especially enjoyed meeting and working next to colleagues they had never met before.

“As we dug up weeds and tugged out honeysuckle shrubs, we met folks from human resources at University Hall and UC’s accessibility services. We learned about dentistry from Dr. Luke Burroughs at UC Blue Ash,” adds professor Culley. “I just hope I didn’t overwhelm the others with my fascinating facts about plants.  

“By the end, our team was darn proud of all the hard work we had put in and the impact it had on our community.”

 

Featured image at top: UC Serves volunteers remove weeds and spread mulch at the Concord Community Garden in Walnut Hills. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Scenes from the day's fun

Woman kneels pulling weeds from a garden.

May Street Orchard beautification project. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Woman spreads mulch with a shovel in a garden.

Concord Community Garden. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Man and woman pull dead branches from a tree.

May Street Orchard. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Three people shovel mulch using shovels in a garden.

Concord Community Garden. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Two men bend down as they open a covered tarp.

Habitat for Humanity. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

A woman wears a mask as she scraps cement from a brick wall.

Habitat for Humanity. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Three people work in a community garden.

Concord community Garden. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

A man carries tree branches out of a community garden.

May Street Orchard. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Woman kneels holding a box in a cluttered room.

Bethany House Fairmount campus 'before' the clean-up.

A cleaned room with tables and boxes.

Bethany House Fairmount campus 'after' the clean-up.

Make a difference

Through the University of Cincinnati's Next Live Here strategic direction, UC is leading urban public universities into a new era of innovation and impact. Our urban identity is part and parcel of who we are, what we do and why we matter. Get involved as a UC faculty or staff, or apply to UC as an undergrad or graduate Bearcat and make an urban and global impact.