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Shepherd students are volunteers for school's Day of Caring

August 11, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Most of them had only met an hour or so earlier, but good-natured ribbing was in full swing Wednesday morning among a group of Shepherd University students performing voluntary community service.

At an old house on High Street in Martinsburg that soon will be the site of offices for a child-related agency, nine freshmen from the university and a senior helping to oversee the project tore off a rickety porch and part of a wheelchair ramp and cleaned the inside of the building, collecting more debris than would fit in one Dumpster.

When Timothy Thomas climbed onto the porch roof, he tore off and threw down old, partially rotten wooden shutters that collapsed upon hitting the ground.

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"What'd you do? You broke it," a new friend on the ground teased.

A sledgehammer was needed to break apart two sections of metal railing along the porch steps.

Several students took whacks at the railing, but it barely moved.

"You hit like a girl!" someone yelled.

"We're going to be here for a month! C'mon guys," encouraged Rusty Holland, director of Safe Haven Child Advocacy Center.

The center will open its offices in the former house - sometimes called "The Pink House" because of its color - once the building is declared safe for occupancy.

The unsafe porch had to go.

Although ornate scrollwork made the Victorian porch interesting, it did not match the Federal-style architecture of the house, built in 1850, Holland said.

Thomas was one of the students who quickly volunteered to go onto the porch roof, although a few minutes later he shouted down a warning.

"The wood up here is rotten under the metal," he said.

Thomas, of Charles Town, W.Va., said he worked all summer with his father, a carpenter with a small Virginia business.

As a commuter student, Thomas said the chance to volunteer could help him feel like a part of the university, even though he won't be living in a dormitory.

"I like helping out in the community, and it's a way to get involved," he said.

Thomas plans to major in education.

Devon Turner, of Centreville, Va., also volunteers with her church and a youth group.

It was not with envy that she looked toward the young men sweating as they worked to tear down the porch.

"I'd rather be inside," said Turner, who plans to major in elementary education. Turner helped to wash windows, scrub miniblinds and tear out carpet.

"It's a fulfillment of getting to do stuff for people that really need it, and making new friends along the way," she said, adding that new friendships had been formed among the volunteers.

Shepherd University senior Megan Bolyard, of Parsons, W.Va., was working as a site leader.

Most freshman will be moving onto campus today, but those who signed up during registration sessions in June and July to volunteer were allowed to move into their dorm rooms two days early.

That's the only incentive the students gained.

"They just do it out of the kindness of their own heart," said Bolyard, a recreation and leisure studies major.

Other tasks the volunteers performed included moving full file cabinets, furniture and computers.

"(And we) got a dead bat off the ceiling," Bolyard said.

Day of Service was coordinated by the university's Office of Student Community Services and Service Learning.

More than 100 students participated, volunteering at a number of sites in the area.

Safe Haven Child Advocacy Center, affiliated with Children's Home Society of West Virginia, serves children who have been the victims of physical or sexual abuse.

In one place - the center's offices - children and their families can meet with police, Department of Health and Human Services representatives, prosecuting attorneys, mental health professionals and forensic nurse examiners.

Next month, members of the Eastern Panhandle Home Builders Association will build a new porch and handicapped ramp, and fix the building's roofline to prevent insects from entering.

"It was great. I didn't hear any whining. Total cooperation. Everyone did exactly what they were asked. A lot of teamwork," Holland said. "I couldn't have asked for anything more if we had paid them."

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