Lu Sevier wielded a mean shovel.
Standing on the roof of a dilapidated house in York County, Sevier ’16 and a posse of fellow incoming freshmen were tearing down a home at the behest of a non-profit organization known as Housing Partnerships, Inc.
As fellow student Deborah Christian pounded holes in the roof with a sledgehammer, Sevier and other co-workers scooped up the debris and tossed it to the ground.
"It feels good," said Christian, "all your energy and stress going into something productive."
It was all part of William & Mary’s annual SHOW Day – Students Helping Out Williamsburg – on Aug. 28. More than 200 students helped more than a dozen Williamsburg-area organizations and schools, as students undertook everything from gardening and weeding to painting numbers on parking spaces to helping elementary school teachers organize opening-day packets.
“I figured that a lot of cool people would come out,” Sevier said. “If you want to do community service on your first day, you’re bound to meet an interesting group of people.”
Across town from where Sevier worked, Karyne Williams of Woodbridge, Va., and Tram Phung of Roanoke, Va., wrestled a unwieldy pane of Plexiglass across a room and onto a tabletop. They were standing in the back of a Habitat For Humanity ReStore, a converted supermarket that’s been open for a few months.
ReStore accepts donations of household items – everything from never-used kitchen cabinets to almost-antique meat grinders – marks them down 50 to 75 percent and sells them out of a showroom.
ReStore also accepts cash donations, and that’s where Williams and Phung came in this day. They were tasked with building a model home/bank with a slot cut in the roof for people to drop in cash and coins.
“This is my first time doing anything like this,” Phung said. “I’ve never done any wood shop.”
Using a wooden home as model, the students measured and drew lines with the idea of creating something one and a half times the size of the model. A worker eventually helped them carry the pane over to a table saw, where she safely guided the cutting process.
“I just wanted to be out helping the community, helping someone besides myself, and giving back to the new community that I am now a part of,” Williams said.
Perhaps no one was happier with her assignment than Sevier, who spent most of her life in Colorado but moved to Northern Virginia about a year ago. She no sooner came down from the roof of the York County house than she volunteered to go back up when someone else needed a break.
“It’s really cool to work with your hands and do something practical,” Sevier said. “I always wanted to learn how to build a house and do things with my hands, especially since as girls we’re told how to work really hard but we never get to do a lot of manual labor.”
Sevier spent part of the afternoon working beside Michael LeFew of Salem, Va., who also was thrilled to have been chosen to do manual labor.
“Any chance I have to serve people is something I want to do,” he said.
For many of the students involved, community service was hardly a new concept.
Williams tutored school children in Woodbridge, ranging in age from second grade to high-school sophomores.
Connor Dantzler of Damascus, Md., who worked at the Habitat ReStore, had helped build houses in Garrett County, Md., the last three years as part of Habitat’s more well-known services.
LeFew was vice president of his high school’s Leo Club, part of the Lion’s Club. He helped coordinate fund-raising that went to helping the vision impaired, the Lion’s Club’s main cause.
Sevier was the lead singer in several bands, one of which put together a 15-song set that they played in homes for the elderly.
During lunch earlier in the day, Coordinator of Community Engagement Elizabeth Miller ’11 remarked that W&M’s remarkable commitment to community service might have been one reason some of the students in the audience had chosen the College.
“Obviously, I chose it primarily for the academics because it’s very excellent,” he said. “I also chose it because it’s a great (ideal) distance from home, but the community service work done here definitely had an impact.”