This Saturday, more than 550 Bowdoin students, faculty and friends will travel to 60 different service sites in midcoast Maine, celebrating the 12th annual Common Good Day.
"One thing I love about Common Good Day is that it is such a tradition," said this year's Common Good Day Fellow Caitlin Callahan '11. "At this point it's something people want to do, well before registration even starts."
Students can sign up to participate in Common Good Day as a group or as individuals.
When group registration began this year, all the available projects were filled within 12 hours.
In previous years, individual registration has filled up within four days. This year, however, is different.
"There are still a few spots left," said Callahan. "We can fit people in random places."
Despite the few remaining openings, "students appreciate the opportunity to come together and really celebrate this event," said Interim Director of the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good Sarah Seames.
"When they come back at the end of the day, that's one of my favorite times: talking to the students about their experiences, and how else they can get involved," Seams added.
The McKeen Center intends for Common Good Day to mark the beginning of a whole year of service.
"This is definitely not the pinnacle of the year," said Seames, "The more meaningful service experience comes from a longer term commitment."
According to Kara Wilson '11, last year's Common Good Day certainly encouraged that. "It made me interested in other ways I could help out," she said.
Wilson worked on a communal farm with more than 20 other students. "One part was cleaning out part of a barn, [another part] was taking down an old chicken coop, so it was really hands-on work," she said.
Most of this year's Common Good Day projects are similarly physical, ranging from trail clearing to gardening work that organizations don't have the time or resources to complete independently. One of the more unique, and popular, projects will send a group of students to Roller World in Topsham to spend time with children on the waiting list for Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
"It's a really nice diversity; [we can allow] people to participate how they want," said Callahan. Another group will aid a non-profit organization in Portland that teaches financial literacy to refugees and immigrants.
This year, for the first time, the McKeen Center will be using busses for transportation.
"Instead of a large fleet of five, seven and 12-passenger vehicles, the school is generously providing us with the opportunity to use buses for some of our larger projects," said Joelinda Coichy '11, who along with Taylor Cochran '13 was in charge of transportation this year.
The McKeen Center will rent 14 buses from BoMar Transportation and 13 vehicles from U-SAVE Car and Truck Rental. Additionally, 12 vehicles from the Bowdoin fleet will be used.
"The McKeen Center works really proactively trying to figure out ways to address issues of sustainability and environmental concerns [in our work]. It's another way to serve," Coichy said.
She said it was a "trial run, though; we don't know exactly what the carbon footprint differences are going to be."
Regardless of logistical issues, "it's really rewarding to be invested with this big of a project," said Callahan.
Student participants have similar feelings. "It made me see Maine as not just the Bowdoin bubble; it made me feel a lot more connected," said Wilson.