July 16, 2008 — Participants in Ernst & Young's "Your Master Plan" program know all about hard work. Not only are they all full-time employees of Ernst & Young, the national public accounting firm that sponsors the two-year program, but they're also students earning an M.S. in accounting from the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce.
So when these participants have some spare time, you might expect them to sit back and put their feet up. But you'd be wrong: Many participants in the program are happy to put down their laptops, roll up their sleeves and get to work helping those in need.
On June 21, 55 students from the Your Master Plan volunteered a total of 220 hours at the Innisfree Village (www.innisfreevillage.org/index.html). Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Innisfree is a residential community for some 40 adults with intellectual disabilities (known within the community as "co-workers") and 25 full-time volunteers. Together, members of the community operate a range of vegetable and flower gardens, as well as a weavery, woodshop, kitchen and bakery.
Not surprisingly, running these operations keeps community members very busy — which is why they were delighted by the Your Master Plan participants' help cleaning windows, spreading mulch, harvesting garlic and cleaning chicken houses.
"My team washed windows," said Carol Ku. "It was great because we got a chance to meet the co-workers we were serving. We also met volunteers who, incredibly, make a commitment of one year or more to live and work at Innisfree. It was a cool experience, and it fits with the culture of both U.Va. and Ernst & Young, both of which support giving back to the community. I'm so glad I did it."
Added Thomas Ball, vice president of the 2008 Your Master Plan class, "One of the volunteers was amazed at how much we were able to get done in such a short period of time. Working alongside my classmates for a cause greater than ourselves was deeply satisfying. Innisfree is a beautiful place with an inspiring setting and inspiring volunteers."
While every member of the class of 2008 who was in Charlottesville participated in the Innisfree project, a smaller number of students have been volunteering on a regular basis helping to build houses for a Charlottesville-based Habitat for Humanity project.
"I was impressed right from the start," said Robin Francis, volunteer coordinator for Habitat. "There is no mandatory service component to the E&Y curriculum — the students just want to make a difference," she said. "They'll do everything from pounding nails, to framing houses, to hanging drywall. Without participants like those from the E&Y program, many houses simply wouldn't get built."
Ball said he finds the balance between working in the Your Master Plan program and volunteering for Habitat for Humanity "a great match."
"It's great to spend time outdoors," he said. "It's great to work with fellow students in a setting different from the office or classroom. And, perhaps best of all, you really get to see the fruits of your labor."