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Dalton State Social Work Students Help Make a Difference

Brandie Stern wasn’t looking forward to the class assignment she had been given.

“I thought, ‘oh no, another project I have to do outside of class time,’ but I didn’t understand,” said the Dalton State social work student. “I didn’t understand just how important this project was to the community or us students. Ms. Tammy Rice knew what she was doing when she assigned it.”

Rice, the director of field education in social work, assigned her students to work in a group. They had to research a community service project, write a grant proposal, propose the project to the United Way of Northwest Georgia, and then see the project through if theirs was chosen to receive the grant. The project is done in conjunction with United Way of Northwest Georgia’s annual Make a Difference Day.

This is the third year the social work program at Dalton State has partnered with United Way for the day of voluntary community service. The nonprofit agency awards a $250 grant to the class project that is chosen.

This year’s was at the Murray County Developmental Center, which provides assistance to individuals with disabilities and their families. Twenty-five social work students, plus 10 community volunteers, made the center’s sign more prominent with fresh paint, landscaped the facility, and provided outdoor seating.

“It’s important for people to be involved in these volunteer projects because it’s about neighbors helping neighbors, giving back to where you live, and making your community a better a place,” said Amy Faillace, volunteer center coordinator for United Way. “Dalton State students represent the next generation of community leaders. It’s a prime time to get these young adults involved with United Way to become current and future volunteers, advocates, and givers. It’s also a great way to tie Dalton State back to the community.”

Being involved in the community, writing grant proposals, learning how to compete for a grant, and community service are all important experiences for a social work major, whose career will be spent utilizing many of these skills, Rice said.

“They learn about group work and how hard it is to put something of this magnitude together,” she said. “They have to find the agency they want to work with, find their need, find donations if $250 isn’t enough to cover the project, and put together a presentation. If their project isn’t chosen, they have to then notify the agency.

“We did more this year than any other year,” Rice said. “Our $250 has gone further than it ever has. This was the largest project, and what they did out there was wonderful.”

Stern’s mother works at the developmental center and brought the idea of doing a service project there to her attention.

“When we went in the center to talk to the agency about the project, we knew immediately we were doing the right thing,” Stern said. “One of the individuals served there ran up to me and hugged me like I had never been hugged before. Then every time we went in after that they all remembered me and she hugged me again. They were so appreciative of what we were doing.

“It’s so important to be involved in the community this way,” she said. “We’re helping agencies that don’t have it in their budget to do things like landscaping or painting because they use everything they have for their clients. These are nonprofits that have limited resources. This project teaches us to work together for something better. It teaches us to work with agencies, which is a big part of social work.”

Crystal Jeffers, also a social work student, was glad to have been a part of the project.

“We fell in love with the developmental center,” she said. “It was a great experience for us. We’re going to continue to do these projects, too. All of our classmates had great ideas. Next semester the Social Work Club is going to do some work at the GreenHouse that was a proposed project. This type of work is showing us what our clients are dealing with on a daily basis.”

Jan Green, director of the developmental center, was thrilled to have the project proposed and chosen.

“They did such a beautiful job,” she said. “They really spruced up the place. The people we serve were so thrilled when they came in Monday morning and saw the work that had been done over the weekend. I was deeply touched these students considered us, and even more so by the work they put into beautifying the place.”