Lees-McRae College celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day with the annual Mountain Day of Service April 22, a day that included 31 service projects on and off campus. Over 400 faculty, staff and students volunteered more than 2,000 hours to better the campus and Banner Elk community.
"Mountain Day of Service shows that the students, faculty and staff of Lees-McRae are thankful for the good fortune bestowed upon us, and in return, we share that with others. There is an importance of providing direct service to our fellow women and men, as well as all living things and this idea is the motive behind the annual Mountain Day of Service," said Charlie Herron, a senior who works in the office of community outreach.
On-campus projects included flower planting in the Peace Garden, bike trail clean-up, construction of a wheel chair ramp for the Whitesell Art Studio, floor replacement in the Chafee Administration Building and landscaping in Swank Park.
Off-campus projects ranged from trail maintenance at Buckeye Recreation Center on Beech Mountain, to land clearing and site preparation for Habitat for Humanity and electronics recycling at the Banner Elk Town Hall.
After a hard day's work the volunteers relaxed at a celebration on Tate Lawn, which included a "bring your own blanket" barbeque picnic dinner and three live bands - Augustine, City of God and Matt Corey.
"Mountain Day of Service is a hallmark program at Lees-McRae College and serves as an incredible example of our commitment to serve the community," said Selena Hilemon, director of community outreach and coordinator of Mountain Day of Service.
The tradition of Mountain Day at Lees-McRae 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 fall and spring tradition, though the hike was limited to Wildcat Lake via the Hemlock Trail. In 2005, former Lees-McRae President David Bushman began a new tradition making the spring Mountain Day a day of service, and leaving fall Mountain Day a day of rest and fun.
"Mountain Day of Service is a way of celebrating community, responsibility to the surrounding mountains, as well as responsibility to the people of the community. It serves as a reminder that we have an obligation to share whatever we have - talents, the ability to work, harmony in the home, health, whatever it may be," said Herron.
For more information on opportunities to give back to the community, contact Selena Hilemon, director of community outreach at email@example.com or 828.898.3318.
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