Every single graduate of University of the Cumberlands has given back to the community through service. This year, many students are serving the community through the Cumberlands initiative Season of Service. It began on January 4th and will continue until December 9th.

By the end of the fall semester, Cumberlands students will have participated in more than 139 individual service opportunities. Season of Service will have served more than 27 community partners in Whitley and Laurel County, filling approximately 1,200 volunteer spots. Project sites have added health and safety precautions to ensure the highest level of safety for Cumberlands students and the community. Last year, students logged 5,200 hours during Season of Service.

“Servant leadership is one of the ways Cumberlands lives out the Christian principles it was founded on,” said Jamirae Holbrook, executive director for extended services at the university. “Despite the challenges of continuing service projects amid a national pandemic, the very important work of our community partners provides our neighbors with much-needed aid, services, and outreach. To many of our community partners, our student volunteers are the hands and sweat each week that carry out their good work. With everything these projects are teaching our students about hard work, humility, and generosity, we’re thankful for so many opportunities to give back!”

While some students prefer to serve the community for several hours on a few days out of the semester, others choose to serve for shorter chunks of time more regularly. Haleigh Hopper is a sophomore from Barbourville, Kentucky, who assists with the Corbin Backpack Program for two hours every Monday evening. She is one of 20-30 volunteers who spend two hours each week packing 900 backpacks for children whose families struggle to have enough food over the weekends. Backpacks are dispersed to the children the following Friday. Haleigh has enjoyed helping out with the Corbin Backpack Program.

“My experiences have taught me to be more grateful for what I have in life. So many go through life without basic necessities like food,” she said. “This community has provided me with friends, opportunities, and a higher education, and it is important to give back through community service as a ‘thank you.’ I also think it’s important because, though the service projects may seem small to some, the impact in others’ lives is great. Packing the backpacks takes about two hours of my time and yet impacts 900 other people’s lives, which is cool!”

This week, Cumberlands is wrapping up its annual fall food drive, Plates for a Purpose. The event lasts for five weeks each fall collecting donated food and hygiene items to support local food banks. Last year, students helped to collect 30,557 pounds of food for the community.

Students can learn more about community service opportunities in the area and sign up to serve by visiting ucumberlands.edu/community-service/SeasonofService. A major service event is scheduled for January 17, to coincide with the national Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

To partner with the university for future community service opportunities, contact Jamirae Holbrook at jamirae.holbrook [at] ucumberlands.edu (jamirae[dot]holbrook[at]ucumberlands[dot]edu).