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Carlson School Students Give Back with Service Day

April 23, 2013

Participants volunteered at nonprofits throughout the Twin Cities

On April 12, Carlson School students took part in a day of service, demonstrating the school's commitment to philanthropy. In the hopes of creating lasting partnerships with area nonprofits, students and staff convened to volunteer - they built dressers, painted apartments, and reviewed resumes for those less fortunate.

Students assemble furniture during the day of service.

Furnishing homes for families

Fifteen Carlson School students built dressers at Bridging - a non-profit that collects and donates gently used furniture and home goods to families in need. Bridging is the largest furniture bank in the country and supplies 80 households per week with the items families need to make a home. The families that use Bridging's services survive on an average annual household income of $15,000 a year, which leaves little money for dishes, linens, furniture, and household goods.

"More than half of the families we serve have experienced homelessness within the last year before meeting us," says Diana Dalsin, Bridging community manager. "These people have lived on the streets, or in a shelter. Their experience at Bridging is about creating a sense of permanency and home."

Bridging is especially grateful to provide new furniture to its clients, who rarely receive brand new items for their homes. Bridging expects the dressers the volunteers built, donated by the Carlson School, will get claimed within a week.

The bustling nonprofit relies heavily on volunteers like the group of Carlson School students to coordinate donations and work with clients. Their dedicated volunteers provided 77,000 hours of service last year - equivalent to the hours of 37 full time staff. But they are always looking for people who want to help, as well as donations.

"Seeing the state of poverty in our community is eye-opening," says Flora Chen, a first-year student who helped assemble dressers. "We live in our own world in college, but meeting these families puts things in perspective."

The importance of giving back is encoded in the Carlson School's culture, and the students who participated in the service day plan to continue serving their communities long after graduation.

"We are very privileged to go to a great school, and we will all have great careers when we graduate," says Gage Kaefring, marketing and international business senior, and service day event coordinator. "It's important to acknowledge that not every student has those opportunities, and we've been given a gift that we need to share in some capacity."

Brightening residents' homes
Meanwhile, in Brooklyn Center, students got their hands dirty, painting elevator lobbies for low-income residents. The participants painted lobbies on all 13 floors in Crest Apartments, a building that provides affordable housing to low-income families, recently homeless individuals, and homeless youths.

Undergraduate students help paint during the day of service.

"We want to provide a feeling of home for our residents. Just a touch of color really helps add character to our residents' homes," says Alicia Klatt, building manager. "It's more than painting, these students are really helping make this place home for our residents."

The students felt the real impact of their work throughout the day, as residents expressed their heartfelt thanks for their effort. The donated maintenance from volunteers enable Aeon, the non-profit building owner, to keep rents low for residents.

"When we first came into the building, one of the residents came in and thanked us. He was so overwhelmed that he started tearing up, he was so appreciative," says Kathy Su. "It was very heartwarming and a great way to start the day."

Advising developing professionals
Eight student participants in the Carlson School undergraduate chapter of Net Impact reviewed resumes and conducted mock interviews for burgeoning professionals at the African Development Center, a nonprofit supporter of economic development for African immigrants and refugees in the Twin Cities.

Net Impact is a collective of volunteers who hope to inspire, educate, and equip students and professionals to use their business skills to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world.

"Giving back to the community is essential for our group," says Jordan Haltaufderheid, vice president of Net Impact. "We support those who wouldn't be able to get that help from somewhere else, and we have the skill to do it, so why waste that?"

Volunteering beyond service day
Carlson School students give back to their community year-round. In the weeks leading up to service day, Women in Business raised $11,000 for Women's Advocates, a local shelter; Net Impact coordinated a blood drive with American Red Cross; and a number of undergrads participated in the Volunteer Tax Assistance Program. Keep up with ongoing service projects on Tumblr.

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