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Furman students offer their hands and hearts to community

Members of Furman's men's soccer team Luke Tandy '22, Jacob Garzon '21 and Ben Roberts '23 visit Monaview Elementary School students through the Men Who Read program.

It’s the season of giving – and Furman students are giving back to the Greenville community.

Working through service organizations, athletic teams, fraternities and other groups, Furman students are improving the lives of children, feeding the hungry and helping Greenville’s nonprofits serve those in need.

Making new traditions

Furman’s chapter of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega has conducted small service projects in the community since its establishment in 2014. But this semester, APO members wanted to do something bigger, said Lauren Holmes ’21, APO’s vice president of service.

With $8,000 from the Student Government Association, APO partnered with the international hunger relief fund Rise Against Hunger to pack 23,382 meals in three hours on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The money paid for the food, cost of transportation to get it to Furman and for packaging materials, Holmes said. The meals were enough to feed 108 children  in various countries for an entire school year.

Furman APO members pack meal boxes for the holidays.

“We wanted to do something that had a much bigger impact and could involve many people,” Holmes said. About 50 volunteers took part, including about 35 APO members.

“This partnership with Rise Against Hunger allowed APO to strengthen the three pillars of their work: leadership, fellowship and service,” said APO faculty advisor John Kaup. “I am excited to see them expand their community impact (to an international level) and look forward to this becoming an annual tradition.”

Reading is cool

Jeffrey Fann ’20 remembers his 10th birthday party – held on the Furman campus. Two Furman varsity soccer players were part of it, because they were running the soccer games the kids were playing in the stadium. “I remember thinking I want to be one of those guys one day,” Fann said.

Today, he is, and now he’s the one who’s impacting youth in the community.

Fann, a Furman soccer player who just completed his senior season, was among members of Furman’s men’s soccer and tennis teams who participated in Monaview Elementary’s Men Who Read, Dress For Success program. Men Who Read aims to make reading cool for elementary school boys by emphasizing the importance of literacy and dressing for success.

Student-athletes in the men’s soccer and tennis teams promote reading at Monaview Elementary School in Greenville, South Carolina.

In addition to reading with the students during a visit to the school in November, the Furman athletes taught the Monaview students how to tie ties, something Fann called an evolutionary step in the students’ transition from childhood to becoming young men.

“I am privileged to have a chance to be a good influence, have a positive impact and inspire these kids to do the little things right and recognize the dreams they have are achievable,” Fann said.

Holiday Giving Tree

One of the Heller Service Corps’ largest projects is the Holiday Giving Tree, an effort to supply wish list items that nonprofits and agencies in Greenville County must gather to fulfill their missions. Tags with the items hung on five trees stationed throughout campus and at The Woodlands at Furman, a senior living retirement community near campus. Wish list items range from canned cat food for Palacats cat rescue to children’s books for preschools to clothing items for emergency shelters.

“You can’t run a homeless shelter if you can’t clothe them or give them blankets,” said Katherine Denney ’20.

Furman University’s Heller Service Corps collects gifts, household products and donations for various community nonprofit organizations.

Through the Holiday Giving Tree project, students invite the agencies to campus for a luncheon and present the gifts and cash donations collected.

“It’s like kids on Christmas morning,” Denney said about the luncheon. “There are so many smiles and thank yous. But the smiles and thank yous aren’t the reason we do it. We do it because it’s a way to give back to the organizations that have given so much to Greenville.”

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