iC Dingbat

Homelessness: Raising Money and Awareness

Story by: Jennifer Stephens '12

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

She accomplished all three—and then some.

MMHSBy Nov. 30 the CVC had exceeded its goal, and by the end of classes this fall it had raised a total of $15,888. The money will be the Colby Volunteer Center’s contribution to the 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 took up most of the CVC’s time and effort, creating awareness on campus about the issue of homelessness was 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 consisted of an art display in the student center, a special edition of the student newspaper 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.

“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 got 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 donation that will buy Colby students an opportunity to name a dormitory of the new shelter, the CVC sold T-shirts donated by local businesses, held fundraising competitions between classes and dorms, donated profits from weekly senior bar nights, and accepted online donations.

The new 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. The new shelter will open to the Waterville community in November 2012.

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