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W&L Entering Students’ Service Day Benefits Area Organizations

Members of W&L's entering class create a vegetable garden at the Rockbridge Area Free Clinic.
Members of W&L's entering class create a vegetable garden at the Rockbridge Area Free Clinic.
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As First-Year Orientation at Washington and Lee University drew to a close last week, the entire class of 472 incoming students fanned out to 28 different locations in Lexington and Rockbridge County for a half day of community service on Thursday, Sept. 9.

A group of 35 students descended on the Rockbridge Area Free Clinic. Lauren Ashley Tipton, a junior neuroscience major who led the group, explained that pre-med students were particularly interested in this assignment. One group of students was given the challenge of creating a vegetable garden for the clinic's diabetic patients, raised three feet off the ground to make it wheel-chair accessible. "The vegetable garden is really exciting to me," said Laura Simpson, a registered nurse at the clinic, who also runs a group program for diabetic patients.

Garrett Koller, a first-year student from Sand Springs, Okla., said that despite the initial set-back of insufficient tools, they came up with a plan and completed about half of the vegetable garden. "We should be able to finish it pretty soon with another visit," he said.

Meanwhile, at an area elementary school, students were busy spreading mulch around the playground. "I'm really tired," said first-year student Jena Glavy from Stafford, Va. "My shoulders are probably going to be a bit sore tomorrow, but it was fun."

Another school that benefitted from the students' work was Rockbridge County High School, where Mac O'Brien, a first-year student from Atlanta, Ga., was one of a group of students who renovated a courtyard. He explained that the school's senior gift last year was a load of gravel and some stepping stones to create the courtyard. "It was pretty raggedy when we got there, but it looks really good now," he said. "The maintenance guy we were working with said he loved all the help. He asked if more students could help him out with future projects."

At Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Garden, the W&L students painted items for an upcoming festival. They also cleared brush and removed poles set in the ground from a previous event. "There were 12 poles and they were at least two feet deep," said Will Hecht, a first-year student from Vienna, Va. "We had to wiggle them and pry them out with shovels. It took us hours to get them out and it was surprisingly hard work."

At Kendal Retirement Community in Rockbridge County the volunteering was a little easier. "We went to a musical therapy class and played hand bells with some of the residents," said first-year student Libby Goodell from Bronxville, N. Y. "I was surprised at how enthusiastic the residents were and how very good they were at the hand bells."

Back on campus, Yates Wilburn, a first-year student from Hilton Head, S.C., worked at weeding and planting in the university garden. "Some of the vegetables grown in the garden go to Campus Kitchens, which distributes food to low income members of the community," he said. "I didn't even know W&L had a garden."

Other area organizations the students visited were Mayflower, an assisted living home in Lexington; Woods Creek Montessori; The Manor of Natural Bridge retirement home; Habitat for Humanity in Buena Vista; Project Horizon; the Magnolia Center, a day care center for the mentally disabled in Buena Vista; Glasgow Food Pantry; YMCA; Yellow Brick Road Early Learning Center in Lexington; Rockbridge Area Prevention Coalition; Rockbridge Area Occupation Center; United Way; Roots and Shoots; Concerned Citizens of Glasgow; Hospice; Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center; Rockbridge Regional Library; CASA; Maury River Middle School; Rockbridge Historical Society; Fairfield Elementary School; Waddell Elementary School; and Central Elementary School