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Tuesday, November 1, 2005

VISTA volunteer boosts community service at UNCP

Mary McEntee came to UNC Pembroke to help.

An AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, McEntee works in UNCP’s Office of Student Activities. Since leaving her Rochester, N.Y., home, McEntee has shed a lot of winter clothes, learned to love collards and has become an integral part of the University’s community service programs.

AmeriCorps VISTA worker Mary McEntee meets with student Leigh Andra Oxendine.

AmeriCorps VISTA worker Mary McEntee meets with student Leigh Andra Oxendine.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, McEntee coordinated UNCP’s relief efforts with many student clubs, organizations, athletic teams and academic programs to raise money.

“We were able to raise $1,918 for the American Red Cross,” she said. “It was a very diverse campus group that included the wrestling team, Honors College, Teaching Fellows and Disabled Student Organization among others.”

McEntee also helped coordinate the 2005 Alternative Fall Break with the Baptist Student Union. Twenty-two volunteers traveled to Charleston, S.C., to work at a soup kitchen, Habitat for Humanity and a Boys and Girls Club reading program.

“That was a really wonderful group of students,” she said. “We hope to organize another event for Spring Break.”

Through NC ACTS (Activating Citizens Through Service), McEntee has enrolled 23 students in a community service scholarship program.

“We have 25 $1,000 scholarships available at UNCP for students who work 300 hours this year at one organization,” she said. “The students are volunteering at after-school programs, Rape Crisis Center, and Odum Children’s Home. One volunteer has started a First Book literacy program on campus.”

UNCP volunteers serve food at a Charleston, S.C., soup kitchen. Vista AmeriCorps worker Mary McEntee is on the right.

UNCP volunteers serve food at a Charleston, S.C., soup kitchen. Vista AmeriCorps worker Mary McEntee is on the right.

McEntee is a big help to the Student Activities office said Melanie Clark, director of UNCP’s Leadership and Service Opportunities Program (LSOP).

“Mary is a tremendous asset to our office,” Clark said. “We would not be able to manage the increased fundraising and community service capacity without her.”

“This is the first year we have been able to do a campus-wide fundraiser in the aftermath of a disaster like Hurricane Katrina,” Clark said. “It is amazing how many more students we have been able to engage in service with Mary being here. I am grateful for the North Carolina Campus Compact for giving UNCP the opportunity to have a VISTA volunteer.”

McEntee credits UNCP’s students for their remarkable attitude toward community service.

“I have worked in a lot of university and community college settings, and UNCP has the most programs I have seen,” she said. “The students at UNCP are more likely to get involved in volunteering. I am not sure, but it may come from their church experience.”

Southern hospitality is not a myth, McEntee said.

“Everybody has been so kind and they have worked hard to make sure that I’m comfortable,” she said. “I am deeply grateful.”

“Southern cooking is also very good,” McEntee said. “I tried it all - hush puppies, collards and barbecue.”

McEntee earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and a Master of Science degree in student personnel administration from SUNY (State University of New York) Buffalo. Working for VISTA in a student affairs position fits into her career plan.

“I wanted to gain experience in student affairs while performing community service,” she said. “I’m not sure yet, but my next work experience may be abroad.”

For information about UNCP’s volunteer and community service programs, please call the Office of Student Activities at 910.521.6207 or email activities@uncp.edu.

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