Staying involved on campus over break with service learning

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Planning to be around the Western Carolina University main campus over break? Want to give back to the community? Have a class coming up with service learning requirements that you want to get a head start on?

The Center for Service Learning has several volunteer opportunities for those who will be in the area over the holiday break.

Christmas Cheer Adopt-A-Family

Ongoing through Friday, Dec. 15, The Swain County Family Resource Center (FRC) is looking for people to sponsor families in need during the holiday season. The FRC identifies families who will be unable to provide gifts for their children and matches them with community members who provide gifts. If you’d like to help, call Melissa Barker at the Family Resource Center at 828-488-7505.

The Christmas Connection

Ongoing through Monday, Dec. 18, The Christmas Connection provides new gifts for Jackson County children in need. Families receive presents and clothing for each child, Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, candy, school supplies and even an item for the parents. Volunteers help with organizing, packing and distributing the presents during November and December.

The Christmas Connection is excited to have Western Carolina students come join them at both their locations: a packing center at 22 Steeple Road in Sylva, and a distribution center in the Harris Medical Park near the hospital, Upper Medical Loop, suite #63. For questions or to sign up for volunteering, please call or text Katie Hoyle at 828-399-1216.

Polar Express Fundraiser

Ongoing through Sunday, Dec. 31, every day the Polar Express runs at Great Smoky Mountain, the Swain County Family Resource Center will be selling hot chocolate, cider and coffee as a fundraiser. Volunteers are needed for all dates and times, starting 30 minutes before the first train of the day. Groups are welcome to volunteer. For more information, please call Melissa Barker at 828-488-7505.

Gorges State Park Workday

Gorges State Park is sponsoring volunteer workdays on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. There are several ongoing projects and no experience is needed. All tools and safety equipment will be provided. For more info or to volunteer, call 828-966-9099.

MANNA Delivery at the Community Table

On Tuesday, Dec. 12 The Community Table, Sylva’s soup kitchen and food pantry, needs help unloading their bi-weekly food deliveries from MANNA Foodbank. Volunteers will unload food donations from the truck and organize them in the Community Table’s pantries. Lunch is included at the end of this project. For more information or to volunteer, please call Gary Woods at 828-586-6782.

Cullowhee Garden Workday

The Cullowhee Community Garden is an organic, donation-based garden located at 65 South Painter Road behind campus. Workdays are from 3 p.m.-dusk on Wednesdays and from 9 a.m.-noon on Saturdays. No experience is needed and volunteers are always welcome at the workdays. For more information, visit or email Adam Bigelow at
Workdays are weather-dependent - if you are unsure whether a workday will be cancelled, you can check the group’s Facebook page.

Sylva Garden Workday

The Sylva Community Garden is a one-third acre organic plot. It provides gardening space for community members and donates fresh produce to those in need. Workdays for the 2017 growing season will be on Thursday afternoons and are open to all interested volunteers. Visit The Sylva Community Garden Facebook group for more information.

Brushy Face Trailwork Day

The Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust (HCLT) is building a new trail on their Brushy Face property near Highlands. Volunteers of all ages and abilities are welcome. The group will meet at the intersection of South 3rd Street and US-28 in Highlands to carpool to the trailhead. HCLT will supply gloves, water and tools for everyone. You can find more information on other events HCLT is offering at To volunteer, call 828.526.1111 or email

To find out more about service learning opportunities in the area, visit the Center for Service Learning in Belk 273, through email at, or on Facebook at