By Tricia Duke '19 and Elise Goitia '18
First-year student Rachel Kaufman celebrated her 19th birthday by volunteering for Knox College's annual Explore and Engage event.
"I always felt weird on my birthday with people giving me things," she said. "I thought I'd give attention to something else, because giving and doing that for someone else makes me feel really happy."
The Kleine Center for Community Service with the help of the national, co-educational service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega puts on three Days of Service per year at Knox. The fall event, Explore and Engage Galesburg, aims to connect new and returning students with the local community.
Groups of students gathered on September 20 to volunteer in various activities around Galesburg, ranging from painting garbage cans at the Civic Art Center to cleaning dishes for the Knox Prairie Community Kitchen.
Kaufman sorted clothes for Purple Hanger, a thrift store benefiting the Safe Harbor Family Crisis Center. She said her service signified the first step in putting down roots in a new home, as the Galesburg community was a deciding factor in her choosing Knox.
"I went on a tour here, and I just fell in love with the small-town feel," she said. "I like all the people who are so quirky. I thought, Wow, you can be anything here."
Kathleen Ridlon, director of the Kleine Center for Community Service at Knox, said helping students feel invested in their new city is one of the goals of the Day of Service.
"It's really designed to reach out, especially to first-years, and help them get engaged," she said. "My favorite part is getting students off campus and downtown."
James Egan '18 volunteered at the Knox Farm.
"Day of Service means a commitment. It's about establishing yourself as a student volunteer," he said.
Another Knox Farm volunteer, Misha Zahid '19, encouraged students to volunteer beyond Explore and Engage.
"Have fun and don't stop there," she said. "As a student, explore your options and get to know your community. Go to the Kleine Center, because it's a really good resource."
First-year student Abigail Salts said the event represents a greater culture of service at Knox.
"Day of Service definitely signifies how much the Knox community cares about the town around it," they said. "This is our home for the next four years, and so if we don't become a part of it, what's the point?"
"It makes you and everyone around you feel good," said Salts.