Oct. 16, 2014
By Brad Muller | More Features
Community Service is not a one-shot deal for South Carolina student-athletes, and Gamecock volleyball team members are making their presence felt in the local community daily throughout the month of October.
"We get to put on a Carolina jersey and that represents the university and Columbia as a whole," said senior Caroline Cann. "It's important for us to get involved in the community so when we go out there and represent this state, we know who we are representing. We can walk around with a little more pride because we know we've invested in this community. Every time we walk out of somewhere that we are volunteering, all of us just feel appreciative of how spoiled we are in that we get to do so many things. To be able to turn around and see that we give back to someone is really humbling and a good experience for us."
The volleyball staff informs the team of opportunities to help out and are scheduled through Director of Life Skills and Community Outreach, Erica Nelson. The Gamecocks have been offering assistance at the Ronald McDonald House, which aids families of seriously ill or injured children, Transitions of Columbia, which assists the homeless, the Harvest Hope Food Bank and the Christopher Towers apartments for the elderly.
"The coolest thing is our student-athletes do it because they love to do it," said Coach Scott Swanson. "They just really care. We have some that do community service outside of these scheduled events too. It's a cool thing to see because they're busy with their classes, practices, weights and travel. For them to take the time to do that is something that makes us really proud."
"It feels really good to give back to the community as a team since we get so much support," added freshman Allie Monserez. "It just feels awesome to put a smile on someone's face who isn't as fortunate. Seeing how they may not have much, but are still smiling and happy to see us, it means a lot and makes me appreciate all that I have."
The Gamecocks assisted in distributing meals at Transitions, while at Harvest Hope they packed boxes of food items for families in need. At Ronald McDonald House, the student-athletes went through the kitchen to make sure all of the food for the residents was fresh and put up some decorations as well.
"At Transitions, we were serving them breakfast and greeted the people as they came in to eat," said sophomore Jacqy Angermiller. "They were really happy to see Gamecocks there. I like connecting with people like this."
"It's such a good feeling and so rewarding. You go in there trying to do something for them, but you walk out of there feeling that you really got something out of it as well."
For some of these projects, the student-athletes are up before 6 a.m. to help out.
"At Transitions, we get to see the result of what we are doing immediately," Cann said. "When they're coming through the lines, we see their face light up when they see that we have on a Gamecock volleyball shirt. It's such a good feeling and so rewarding. You go in there trying to do something for them, but you walk out of there feeling that you really got something out of it as well."
Recently, members of the South Carolina's Sand Volleyball team had also spent some time at Harvest Hope, packing approximately 300 boxes of food for those in need.
"It's wonderful that the student-athletes want to lend their support for our mission to help struggling families," said Scot Garrick, communications manager of Harvest Hope Food Bank. "University athletes have come in many times to help us pack emergency food boxes, which go right to tables of families in our community. Harvest Hope could not conduct our mission and help others without the generosity and compassion of these wonderful athletes who are showing their dedication to the community."
The volleyball student-athletes are also involved in a project for Habitat for Humanity. In addition to classes, student-athletes have a lot of demands for their time, especially when their sport is in-season, but the Gamecocks are happy to make it happen.
"We're helping build a house for a local family," said junior Sarah Blomgren. "It's really exciting. Just to be able to make an impact and have it be so meaningful is really great. It's harder to do all of this in-season because you have so many hours of practice and you have to focus on film, and weightlifting, and matches, so it's pretty demanding, but we always find time."
Whether it was playing bingo with the elderly or getting up early to serve a warm meal to the homeless, each of the Gamecocks is able to tell how they have made an impact, and how the people they meet make an impact on them.
"There are so many different areas in the community that can use our help," said senior Mikaela Christiaansen. "The people are so friendly. Everyone has their own story to tell, and it's good to hear it. It's pretty eye-opening."
"Sitting down to play bingo and just have a conversation with them was fun," added sophomore Megan Kirkland. "They enjoyed seeing new faces and having someone to talk to."
Swanson says his team is eager to make community service a year-long commitment.
"We'll do even more in the spring, and that's why I'm so proud of them," Swanson said. "They are so busy, but they love to do it because they realize this is one of the reasons why they are here - to reach out and give back."
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