iC Dingbat

Homelessness: Raising Money and Awareness

Story by: Jennifer Stephens '12

Update: The Colby Volunteer Center (CVC) announced Nov. 30 that it exceeded its goal of raising $10,000 for the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter's "Rebuilding Lives" campaign. The CVC, a student-led group, collaborated with several organizations both on and off campus and had raised $15,888 by the end of classes.

As director of the Colby Volunteer Center, Dana Roberts ’12 has three goals for November: improve student appreciation of the dormitories Colby students call home, increase awareness about local homelessness, and raise $10,000.

The money will be the Colby Volunteer Center’s (CVC) contribution to Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter’s (MMHS) $2.8-million campaign to build a new shelter and homelessness prevention center in downtown Waterville.

While fundraising for MMHS will take up most of the CVC’s time and effort this month, creating awareness on campus about the issue of homelessness is a central goal. “That’s what we want this month to be—a learning experience,” said Roberts. “There’s no pity involved, it’s nothing like that. It’s about awareness.”

The CVC’s effort to educate students will consist of an art display in the student center, a special edition of the student newspaper, the Echo, featuring stories of shelter guests, a panel discussion of local experts on youth homelessness, and a collaborative campaign with hall staff to address a recent increase in dorm damage. In exchange for decreased dorm damage in October and November, the College will donate up to $7,000 to the cause.

“We’re really going to focus on ending vandalism for the month of November to make people realize that this is our home and many people don’t have that,” said Roberts, who has spearheaded the campaign and gotten multiple campus groups involved—including Hillel, Colby Waterville Alliance, Student Government Association, and the Cultural Affairs Committee. “If we’re at Colby, we’ve been blessed,” she said. “And I feel like it’s our job as a community to support all of our community members.”

To scrape together the $10,000 that will buy Colby students an opportunity to name a dormitory of the new shelter, the CVC has been selling T-shirts that were donated by local businesses, holding fundraising competitions between classes and dorms, donating profits from weekly senior bar nights, and accepting online donations. The facility will sleep 40 guests at a time—complete with separate male, female, and family wings—to replace the existing shelter that sleeps 18 and housed 564 guests last year. Ground will be broken in January, and the new shelter will open its doors to the Waterville community in November 2012.

At a youth homelessness discussion Nov. 17, panelists spoke about their experience working with local youth, often not much younger than the students that filled the audience, who struggle with homelessness. Director of MMHS Betty Palmer said that often when these teenagers are between homes, it’s less about finding “a place to hang their hat” than it is “finding someone to help hold it”—encouragement and support through difficult times can be just as beneficial as providing physical shelter. She encouraged students to lend a hand: “You can make a difference,” Palmer said. “Be the person who helps to hold someone’s hat.”

Jennifer Stephens '12
Orr's Island, Maine
Major: English