April 23, 2008
Lees-McRae lends a hand to the community

More than 450 Lees-McRae College students, faculty and staff completed over 30 service projects during the College's 4th Annual Mountain Day of Service on Thursday, April 17.

Several groups chose to work on campus, planting flowers and spreading mulch, doing maintenance in residence halls, building a turtle habitat at the Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute, and recycling used electronics from local businesses and individuals.

Others volunteered their time in the community at agencies including Blazing Saddles, Avery Arts Council and Reaching Avery Ministries. Students picked up trash along the side of the road, helped with spring cleaning at the Banner Elk Presbyterian Church, removed dilapidated playground equipment at the Valle Crucis Park, and shelved books at the New Opportunity School for Women.

Participants finished the day weary, and many sunburned, but all with a sense of satisfaction, having completed a service project for the good of the College and community. Their efforts were rewarded with a celebration cookout on Tate Lawn featuring Fort Pastor, an acoustic, social justice band, whose members also participated in a service project during Mountain Day of Service.

"The point of Mountain Day isn't to log or count service hours. The point is to come and work together, improve our community together, and to share fellowship with one another," said Selena Hilemon, Director of Community Outreach at Lees-McRae College. "This is what being a community is all about."

The tradition of Mountain Day goes back to the school's founder, the Rev. Edgar Tufts. Each fall, Tufts would surprise the school during chapel by announcing, "it was a good day to climb Beech." Following the proclamation, the entire school would set off up the mountain. When they reached the end of the five-mile climb, a feast of potatoes and corn and sandwiches would be waiting on the group.

Mountain Day was renewed during the early years of the 21st century; more than 100 years after Tufts founded the school. It became a semiannual tradition, though the hike was limited to Wildcat Lake via the Hemlock Trail.

Beginning in April 2005, the spring mountain day was dedicated to community service, leaving the fall celebration as a day of rest of fun.

For more information about Mountain Day, or questions about how you can be involved, contact Selena Hilemon in the Office of Community Outreach at Lees-McRae at For additional information about Fort Pastor, visit

Media Contact:

Blaine Hansen  |  Vice President of Strategic Planning and Effectiveness
Tel: 828.898.8838  |  Email: