More than 500 students, faculty, staff, and alumni will embark on more than 60 community service projects on Saturday in celebration of Bowdoin's 10th Annual Common Good Day.
The work, which will be performed in conjunction with a variety of local organizations, ranges from trail maintenance to visiting the elderly. The event is a core part of the week marked by the opening of the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good.
The McKeen Center is the direct product of a spike in student interest in service in recent years. Its predecessor, the Community Service Resource Center (CSRC), was created through student initiative in the 2001-2002 academic year.
Student participation swelled, and faculty also became involved, expressing interest in connecting their courses with local community issues.
The recent years of growth led to the creation of the McKeen Center, which, according to Director Susie Dorn, will absorb the programs of the CSRC as well as offer new ones.
The increase in community involvement is reflected in the history of Common Good Day, which had 260 participants in 2002 and has had a surplus of applications for the 500 spots since 2006.
Assistant Director of Community Service Programs Sarah Seames and Common Good Day Fellow Jamie Nadeau '10 are largely responsible for the planning of this year's event. They worked out the complicated logistics involved, from transportation and registration to advertisement and scheduling.
Nadeau became involved with the McKeen Center over the summer, largely as a result of his experience with last year's Common Good Day, which he spent working at a local farm.
"I had such an amazing time last year. I'm just honored to be a part of planning it," Nadeau said.
Nadeau said that he hears some criticism that Common Good Day allows people to feel good about volunteering for just four hours without having to make a larger commitment.
"I hear this a lot?that the service isn't that important, that it's just one day, " Nadeau said.
Nadeau said that the actual work done is very important, but that Common Good Day is "not just about the service, it's more about the entire community coming together."
Dorn echoed this sentiment, explaining the significance of the event in the context of the recent increase in Bowdoin students' interest in service.
"Common Good Day used to be one of the biggest service events on campus, it used to define service here," she said. "Now it's more about tradition and connecting to the community because so much more is happening because of student initiative and faculty involvement."
It is this opportunity for engagement with other Bowdoin students that made sophomore Joshua Magno's first Common Good Day a good experience.
"It was amazing spending time with people on my floor," he said.
Magno, who is a proctor on the first floor of Hyde Hall, will serve as a team leader on Saturday, bringing his proctees to the Brunswick branch of Sweetser, an organization that offers support and treatment services to people of all ages with mental and behavioral health conditions.
Magno said that he wonders why Common Good Day only happens once a year.
"I really would like it to be more of a once-a-month thing," he said.
Seames said that she often hears requests for another Common Good Day in the spring, or multiple ones throughout the year. One of the goals of the event, however, is not to imply that one day is enough, but to kick off a full year of community service.
Each year Bowdoin students complete more than 40,000 hours of service work, a figure that reflects that the spirit of Common Good Day extends well beyond the four-hour fall event.
According to its organizers, the fact that Common Good Day happens only once a year does not diminish its practical accomplishments.
"The amount of work that can get done in just three hours is amazing," Seames said.