As campus prepared to dive into another fall season, confronted with the prospects of football season, classes and the all-encompassing social calendar, students ventured off campus into the Knoxville community taking part in the 20th annual Volunteer Challenge.
Vol Challenge, put on by All Campus Events, provided students with an opportunity to serve away from campus life and to experience a firsthand look into the lives of Knoxville citizens.
“We went to the Salvation Army and split into groups to sort through donated goods,”Leah Harrington, freshman in human resource management, said.
Harrington was joined by many other members of her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi.
“I felt like it was a productive day and that we completed the majority of what we went to do,” Harrington said. “My group helped unload boxes from a big (Salvation Army) donation truck with these two men that worked there, and I loved hearing the stories they had to tell.”
Employees at the Salvation Army embraced the intermittent shifts of students throughout the week in addition to the multiple residential volunteers.
“Volunteers helped with angel tree, which is coming up this week, by sorting clothes and sorting through shoes,” volunteer coordinator Yvonne Yates said. “We also had volunteers doing ever-changing tasks in the gardens.”
This volunteer effort was not only a chance to serve but also a way to raise awareness for aid in the Knoxville area.
“The most encouraging thing about the volunteers is knowing they’re coming out because they want to be here. I think that’s the biggest thing,” Yates said. “Another big thing is seeing their eyes open, seeing that there are children on the streets, that there is homelessness even walking distance from UT.”
The Salvation Army was only one of many establishments that received a wave of volunteer activity. Over 25 student organizations, including sororities, fraternities, religious affiliations and academic affiliations were assigned a location that required volunteer work. Some of the these 27 local establishments included the YWCA of Knoxville, Boys and Girls Club, SOAR Youth Ministries, Goodwill, Arnstein Jewish Community Center, Ridgedale School, Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, and many others.
“(Volunteer Challenge) is a lot of tradition,” Vol Challenge chairperson Leslie McCullough said. “We started preparing for it before school even ended last year, around April. Anyone can sign up in a group of at least four.”
 However, despite the tradition that Vol Challenge presents, the committee faced problems in this year’s planning.
“This year it was hard to get organizations to participate because so many student groups didn’t show up or contact their organization,” McCullough said.
 This setback, nevertheless, did not hinder reaping rewards from this year’s Vol Challenge as a whole.
“When I call the agency and the organization is excited to hear that we’re coming and say please contact me again next year, that’s a big deal to me,” McCullough said. “It’s rewarding to see it all come together and have the students and the organization satisfied. I hope that we can continue this tradition on campus, because I think it’s a great thing for people to get involved in.”