“… There is a debt of service due from every man to his country, proportioned to the bounties which nature & fortune have measured to him.”
-- Thomas Jefferson to Edward Rutledge, Dec. 27, 1796
Jefferson’s notion of service to community is woven throughout the University of Virginia. Madison House, UVA’s largest volunteer clearinghouse, enables approximately one in five undergraduates to serve the community each each year.
Among other things, that means more sports coaches for young teams in the Charlottesville-Albemarle community, more volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and more UVA students working with refugee youth arriving to Charlottesville from countries like Burma, Congo, Iraq and Liberia.
“We have about 3,100 students who volunteer on a weekly basis throughout the year at 168 local sites,” Tim Freilich, Madison House’s executive director, said. That service was worth $2.5 million last year. But logging all of those volunteer hours had become a chore because Madison House was using an antiquated system.
For help, Freilich turned to the UVA’s Parents Fund, which makes annual grants to enhance the undergraduate student experience. A grant of nearly $28,000 enabled the volunteer hub to upgrade to a sophisticated system that enables students to log their hours using a smart phone. The funding was also used to upgrade Madison House’s computer lab.
Would Madison House have been able to make the upgrades without the grant? “No,” Freilich said. “The grant is letting us upgrade our systems in a way that we would not have been able to do otherwise.”
Parents of current and former students have been contributing to the fund each year since 1980. In addition to enhancing the student experience, the fund generously supports safety and health, University traditions and diversity. This academic year alone, it awarded just over $1 million, giving $300,000 to the University Career Center, $200,000 to the Office of Student Affairs, $200,000 to the Office of the President and more than $350,000 to Parents Fund Grant recipients like Madison House.
Each year the Parents Fund gives a quarter of its money to discretionary funds for President Teresa A. Sullivan and the Office of Student Affairs. Boyd said this year about $300,000 is supporting initiatives associated with UVA’s Total Advising program, a campaign that harnesses all of the resources at UVA to support students’ personal and professional goals.
As part of that effort, UVA’s Career Center is offering 16 grants of $3,000 each to support students taking unfunded public service internships. Parents Fund money is also supporting the Undergraduate Student Opportunities in Academic Research, known as USOAR. It pairs students and faculty in shared research, paying the student so that he or she does not have to hold a job while earning his or her degree.
Safety First, and Wellness Too
Boyd said the philanthropic program has always been supportive of UVA’s Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, this year granting more than $22,000 to alcohol abuse prevention programs.
Nursing Students Without Borders, the UVA Food Collaborative and the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center were also beneficiaries of the fund.
Grant applications open each August, and are due by the end of September. The Parents Fund announces grant recipients right after Family Weekend.
Peter and Kathy Scaturro, the out-of-state co-chairs of the fund, said giving is a way for them to feel welcome in the UVA community.
In-state co-chairs Rebecca and Bill Sanders said they became involved as soon as they learned about the direct impact of the fund.
“Last year, after working with student and University leaders to identify strategic and immediate needs, the Parent's Fund Committee awarded more than $1 million to more than 100 different organizations,” Rebecca Sanders said.
With that success, members of the fund decided to increase the fundraising goal for this year to $1.25 million.
“We raised about $830,000 in the first semester,” Boyd, the fund director, said. “So we are about two-thirds of the way there.”