Reflections on the September 11 Day of Service
September 18, 2013
By Samantha Samuels
Samantha Samuels, center, with other volunteers at the Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden during Mason’s Day of Service. Photo by Evan Cantwell
My name is Samantha Samuels. I am an Army brat and family to several civil servants, so naturally I am inclined to mark 9/11 as a day of remembrance. This year I decided to do more than simply mark the day, to rather use it as an opportunity to give back to the greater community.
I learned about the 9/11 Day of Service day because of my involvement in Mason’s Honors College and work with Kevin Stoy, the Honors Living Learning Community coordinator and event committee leader, and thought it was the perfect opportunity to give back. I am a senior earning my bachelor of science in psychology and am a peer mentor in the Honors College.
I began my day by going down to the Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden. While there, I met Doni Ward, GOGA (George Mason University Organic Garden Association) president, and she talked to me about how 50 percent of the food is donated to local food banks, while the other 50 percent was consumed by volunteers and the community. The completely organic garden (from the compost to the flowers used for natural pesticides) is not only used as an educational tool, but as an excellent way to connect people to aid the greater community. I myself was glad to be able to get my hands dirty to help this unique part of the George Mason community.
Samuels, far right, also worked at a booth collecting donations for Women Giving Back. Photo by Evan Cantwell
After some time, I headed to the North Plaza and saw the projects being run there. First was the Veterans of Foreign Wars with the “Buddy” Poppies. This amazing organization deals with issues close to my heart, including volunteering and donating to aiding veterans, and I was proud to speak with several veterans there.
I then wrote a letter to a solider overseas, and was very pleased to put my letter on the rather tall stack of letters written during the day. I was honored to be able to thank the veterans present for their service and to do my small part to help them support veterans and their families.
After that, I stopped over at the station for the Women Giving Back clothing drive. There I learned about the wonderful program that is run and operated solely by volunteers that helps women and their children while in transition and/or crisis in Northern Virginia, though nothing donated goes to waste. Anything unused finds a needed home, whether it is to veterans at Fort Belvoir, Wounded Warriors, or towels for animal shelters, they make sure everything finds its way to someone in need.
My final stop for the day was at the Child Development Center, where I observed and was able to participate in the projects that the children were working on. While there, I spoke with Dorothea Tyree, one of the lead teachers at the CDC, who explained that the children (120 at the CDC) were working on letters to soldiers, as well as posters for the Mason police, firefighters, and ROTC.
The purpose of this was to allow the children to give back to the next generation of soldiers and service men and women. That, to me, was a perfect sum up of the day. People giving back in the best way that they could to help make the greater community a better place to be a part of.
I have to admit, when I first heard about the wide variety of projects, I wondered how they would all be appropriate ways to observe 9/11. In the end, that was the beauty of the day. With over 150 volunteers and over 60 different disciplines and departments involved, there was a project for everyone, and an opportunity for all to give back in whatever way they felt best allowed them to benefit the community.
As Doni put it at the beginning of the day, volunteering is not just giving back, but also bringing minds together to improve the greater community. That, I feel, was the true purpose of the day. It was for improving yourself, bettering our community, and making a difference for those who need it. So whatever project was chosen to participate in, I feel as though every little thing done for the Day of Service helped not only to make the larger community better, but it also helped to cultivate George Mason to be a better, stronger place, one continuing to grow and one that you can be proud to be a part of. My hope is that this innovative day can come to be a tradition at Mason and that Patriots will use it as an opportunity to give back for years to come.