CCM still looking for students to volunteer in Gatlinburg this spring break

Two J-term classes volunteering their time to help with the relief of the Gatlinburg fire. Photo by David Peters.
Two J-term classes volunteering their time to help with the relief of the Gatlinburg fire. Photo by Anne McKee.

A group of Maryville College students will be traveling to Gatlinburg this spring break to help with ongoing restoration efforts after the fall fires. The group of volunteers will be led by Zane Dukes and is hosted by the Center for Campus Ministry. Dukes estimates the turn out to be relatively small for this community outreach event despite the college’s sizable number of current students from that region.

“In the past we have always had a blast on trips like this one,” said Dukes, “We all pile into a van and crank up the tunes on our way to do good things.” According to Dukes past trips have included working with the homeless as well as participating in Habitat for Humanity builds.

The volunteers will be assisting a local non-profit organization called Volunteer East Tennessee and will be tasked several duties that could range from sorting donations in their warehouse to prep work for new construction. Volunteer East Tennessee has been at the forefront of the aid effort after the devastating effects of the recent wild fires in Gatlinburg and surrounding areas.

According to a Melanie Vincent, The Knox County Director at Volunteer East Tennessee, the combined forces of both national and local organizations are working hard to move the needle from the recovery phase to the rebuild phase of the aid process.

“We are so humbled by groups, like those from Maryville College, who have planned to dedicate their time and spring breaks to helping in this season of rebuilding,” said Vincent, “Because of overwhelming community and nationwide volunteer support, nearly $2.5 million in volunteer service has been generated, a number that continues to grow!”

In the past the CCM has sponsored trips during spring break that ventured out as far as Washington D.C. These trips have always been centered around community and outreach coupled with an element of fun and adventure. Regarding this up-coming trip to Gatlinburg, Dukes mentioned the possibility of put-put golf as well as dinner out at a restaurant in Gatlinburg.

When I asked about the reason Dukes thought the group number was so small on this trip he spoke of the cognitive dissonance some students may have when dealing with what could be construed as a sad or awkward situation.

“Bad things happen to good people all the time and it takes a certain type of courage to face that type of tragedy,” said Dukes.

“Our founder Isaac Anderson said to ‘do good on the largest possible scale’ and trips like this give our students an opportunity to see what that feels like,” said Amy Gilliland, Director of Community Engagement at MC.

Gilliland spoke of school led community outreach trips she had attended in college stating that “It changed my life forever and I would love to see more of our students to experience that.”

Though meeting times will vary, the group will be leaving from campus every morning and returning to campus early evenings through the week of spring break, March 20  through March 24.

For more information regarding this trip or to sign up to be a volunteer contact Zane Dukes at the Center for Campus Ministry. Last minute commitments are welcome.

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