Action Ministries-Rome was just one of the many places around Floyd County where those Berry hands were busy helping out. In this particular case, bleary-eyed but somewhat chatty freshmen were busy in an assembly line, grabbing boxes and bags and moving one package after another down a long line of tables.
Directing the work was Action Ministries Executive Director Thomas Clarke, who showed students how they should pack the bags in the assembly line and how to use the pallet jack to move around the growing stacks of bagged and boxed food. More volunteers were scheduled for later in the afternoon to help from Trinity United Methodist Church as they finish preparing the food for the upcoming Jesus in the Park event in Ridge Ferry Park on Sept. 23.
But no matter who has come before or who will come after, Clarke said he appreciates whatever helping hands he can get.
“It means a lot to me to have Berry students get involved in the community and to do this much work. It’s a lot,” he said.
Clarke, a Berry graduate who is now earning his master’s degree from his alma mater, said that if it hadn’t been for Berry’s volunteering programs, he wouldn’t be working as the executive director for Action Ministries-Rome.
He also appreciated the hard work packing food — from individual bags put together through an assembly line manned by 30 sets of freshmen hands to kids packing pre-made bags of dried goods into boxes. Those boxes were moved onto pallets, which were then wrapped, stacked and ready for the 1,500 families Clarke expects to serve at Jesus in the Park.
It was hard work, but Berry freshmen weren’t just busy packing food in one place. There were 700 students, faculty and staff that comprised Saturday’s volunteer workforce for the annual Berry College First-year Service Day. By the end of the day, the various groups working in the community at 30 different sites racked up 2,000 hours of community service time.
Organizations like the Davies Shelter, Harbor House and even the E.C.O. River Education Center benefitted from service time through landscaping and painting work. Area cemeteries were cleaned up. They even helped out at Coosa High School for a pancake breakfast fundraiser.
But all in all, it’s not the work that the students did that Berry is hoping that these first-year students thought about during the day. If anything, Katherine Powell, director of the Office of First-Year Experience, hopes the students think about the help they’re providing to the community and what they can do in the future.
“Berry’s motto, ‘Not to be ministered unto but to minister,’ is something we want our new students to embrace right at the beginning of their college careers,” she said.
It isn’t just students and former students like Clarke that take on the motto. Michelle Haney, an associate professor of psychology, said that she has come to embrace the tradition herself and hoped that students would as well.
“There’s a lot of opportunities to do good while they’re at Berry,” she said. “To do volunteer work and service projects. And we want them to take with them after being here for four years this lifelong mission of serving others. So this is their first opportunity as a Berry College student to do this with their freshmen seminar class.”