Kalamazoo Valley Provides Community with Needed Volunteers



The Phi Theta Kappa honor society at Kalamazoo Valley Community College sponsored a daylong community outreach event on Oct. 18 that placed as many as 400 volunteers throughout the city. Students, staff and community members participated in the event, dubbed C3 for Cougars Creating Community.

Mayor Bobby Hopewell kicked of the event with a welcome and thank you for volunteers. College President Marilyn Schlack spoke to faculty members and led the students who participated through a reflective process to share insights about their experiences.

PTK members have been planning the event for about a year. “We definitely want to give back to the community,” explained Adam Lozier, PTK Chapter President and one of the event organizers. “We’re a community college and serving the community is our mission.”

Volunteers provided assistance at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, the Ecumenical Senior Center, Loaves and Fishes, the farmer’s market, the Peace House on Kalamazoo’s east side, and dozens of other destinations. Free haircuts and manicures were offered at Anna Whitten Hall in downtown Kalamazoo for those who can’t afford the services. One haircut recipient paid it forward herself by donating her hair to Locks of Love.

PTK member Melody Woods explained that C3 is a perfect fit for PTK because it involves all four hallmarks that PTK is built around - scholarship, leadership, service, and fellowship. “These hallmarks are very important to PTK and I think they coincide with the goals of C3 as well,” Woods said. “We discovered needs in our community, researched to understand the needs, and identified a few short-term solutions that we implemented during our day of service. The more people that we can continue to get involved, the greater the impact we can have on the community we live in.”

Kalamazoo Valley Psychology instructor Dr. Urminda Firlan is a former Grand Rapids Community College employee who led a similar project there. She is one of the faculty advisors assisting with this project. She said the event’s summary tied the day’s activities into curriculum. Faculty members are already integrating the day’s focus into their course content, some are offering extra credit to participants, and others are tying the project into the theme of their course content.

“The idea of the event is really that it’s an event that creates community,” Firlan said. In addition to community service work, the group also collected non-perishable food items, clothes, coats, and diapers that were donated to local social service organizations. Lozier said he hopes the event will continue to grow. “We definitely hope it will become an annual event,” he said. “We want to create a ripple effect in the community and we hope it grows.”

Woods agreed. “Wouldn't that be amazing if this event encouraged others to notice the great need in our community and become volunteers on a regular basis?”