On October 17, more than 350 Armstrong students, faculty and staff gathered in front of the Student Union Building on a cool fall morning for Treasure Savannah, the university’s bi-annual day of service to the community.
“We are here on this campus because a lot of people had a lot of good will towards us,” said President Linda M. Bleicken as she welcomed student and faculty volunteers who wore matching “5 Years Strong” shirts to celebrate Treasure Savannah’s fifth anniversary. The president walked volunteers through Armstrong’s history, from its earliest days in the Armstrong House in 1935 to its move to the Southside 30 years later.
“Thank you for founding us, thank you for giving us land, thank you for giving us a start,” she said to the Savannah community at large.
Before splitting into teams, volunteers gave a cheerful group wave to Liberty Center volunteers working in Hinesville and to alumni volunteers in Columbia, S.C., who helped alleviate recent flood damage.
“When we give back we really do receive some understanding of our place in the world and an appreciation of where we are in this world,” President Bleicken said, closing her speech as student leaders prepared to take their groups to 10 different community locations.
When buses stopped at the intersection of Guatemala and 57th Street, the East Savannah Church of God was ready with disposable paper bags and pincher-style trash grabbers. Woody Melton, a staff member with Armstrong’s Office of Financial Aid, eagerly joined the sign-in line.
“This is my first year as a volunteer, and I’m really excited to do it,” he beamed. “I want to help the community, and I want to interact with our students.”
Melton and other volunteers covered a wide radius around East Savannah Church of God, picking up candy wrappers, glass bottles, chip bags, straw wrappers and the like.
Across town at the Salvation Army, first-time volunteer Nancy Der and her group hand washed the nonprofit organization’s buses and trucks.
“Treasure Savannah is a great way to give back in your free time,” said Der, wringing a mixture of soap, water and bleach out from her hand towel and dodging water hoses as her group brought a sparkling shine back to the vehicles.
Meanwhile, inside the Salvation Army’s thrift store, two fraternity brothers helped polish the store’s donated furniture. In the adjacent building, more volunteers oversaw the sorting of donated clothing, artwork and electronics while others repainted the charity’s outer walls and iconic red donation boxes and signs.
The activity continued at the West Broad Street YMCA, where volunteers sorted and carted various holiday decorations and children’s games between buildings. Sam Roy dipped her paintbrush with a fresh layer of cream-colored paint for the YMCA’s daycare.
“I’m here to give back,” she said. “I like giving back, and that’s what Treasure Savannah does.”
But as much as Treasure Savannah is about giving back, President Bleicken made a point that it’s the volunteers who also receive.
“What happens to one of us in some way affects all of us,” she explained. “So when we reach out and we give back to those that we can give back to it reminds us of that connection.”
This message could not have been truer than for volunteers at the Union Mission Grace House downtown, which is focused on serving the homeless. After working side-by-side with President Bleicken in the shelter’s kitchen, volunteers gathered in diner-style booths to listen to narratives from shelter clients.
Armstrong volunteers heard life stories, hard-earned lessons and tales of recovery first-hand. At the end of the conversation, lists containing needed donations were distributed into hands ready to continue giving back to the Union Mission Grace House and other individuals in need.
This year’s Treasure Savannah marked “5 Years Strong” from the event’s inception in 2010. For some, the event is a first foray into the world of volunteering or a group outing for friends, sororities, fraternities and clubs on campus. For all, it’s a personally rewarding opportunity to see how every person can make a contribution to their growing community.
“Over the years we have given back thousands of hours through Treasure Savannah,” said President Bleicken. “When we give back, we really do receive some understanding of our place in the world and an appreciation of where we are in this world.”