MEDIA, Pa. — Penn State Brandywine ended a nine-month celebration of its milestone 50th anniversary with a community service initiative that had students, faculty, staff and alumni complete 50 projects within 50 hours.
The marathon of service began at noon Thursday, Sept. 28, with a blood drive hosted on campus and ended on Saturday, Sept. 30, with the volleyball team’s Dig Pink tournament that raised funds for breast cancer research and treatment.
In between, more than 400 volunteers participated in at least one service opportunity. Projects included serving dinner to homeless families, dancing with residents of a geriatric center at their autumn ball, upgrading computers at two non-profit agencies, installing vegetable garden beds at an elementary school, helping several organizations with property maintenance and office tasks, and making cards, blankets and pillowcases for hospitalized children.
Several campus groups collected funds or items for causes ranging from disaster relief to animal welfare to food pantries.
One of the more unique projects was providing “thank you” packages to emergency services employees who work the overnight shift. A group of six students and four staff members left campus at 11 p.m. on Thursday night to deliver Berkey Creamery ice cream and Penn State Bakery cookies and cakes to the Upper Darby police department, the Riddle Hospital emergency room and the Delaware County 911 center.
"In line with Penn State's land grant mission, the Brandywine campus views service to the community as an essential part of making our students civic-minded citizens,” Chancellor Kristin Woolever said. “At Brandywine, the connection between the campus and the community is a two-way street. We’re engaged on a regular basis, but to see this intense amount of activity within a short period of time, and to see how many volunteers were involved and the scope of their impact, was really something special.”
Planning for the 50th anniversary began in early 2016. The committee wanted events to highlight the values and traits that make Brandywine special, and one of those is a commitment to serving the community.
“We thought a focused service initiative would be a great way to end our celebration,” said Bill Tyson, Brandywine’s marketing and communications director and co-chair of the anniversary committee. “We felt 50 projects in 50 hours was a unique, although daunting, idea that could really add an exclamation point to all the great accomplishments on our campus this year.”
“This took an enormous amount of planning and coordination,” Tyson said, “but it was really amazing to see it all come together. I’m very proud to have been part of this effort and I was especially impressed with how our students embraced the initiative.”
Many students participated more than once, including two who were part of four projects. Junior biology major Maddie Malfara donated blood, served dinner to homeless families, delivered “thank you” packages and organized merchandise at a thrift store that benefits the Domestic Abuse Project. Sophomore communication sciences and disorders major Alexa Anderson served dinner to homeless families, made blankets for hospitalized children, danced with residents of a local geriatric center and helped with THON’s car wash, which raised money for children battling pediatric cancer.
“Having a chance to meet and help people who are in need made me realize how grateful I am for all of the things that I have—it puts things into a different perspective,” said Malfara. “I’m thankful to be in a position to give back to others. Not everyone has that opportunity.”
“It’s important to think about others and the challenges that they may be facing in their daily lives,” added Anderson. “These community service projects gave me a chance to meet some amazing people, better understand what they’re going through and make a difference.”
Many campus departments, classes and clubs were actively involved, including Brandywine’s athletics department, which completed 15 projects among its teams and alumni.
“Our coaches, staff and teams jumped right in to help our community with a wide variety of projects,” said Director of Athletics Sarah Kurpel. “This initiative is the spring-board for Brandywine Athletics to engage in service learning more often so our students are able to leave an impact on themselves, on their teammates and in the community through service.”
The end of September was a whirlwind of activity at Brandywine with six anniversary-related events within 11 days. The campus sponsored the popular Dining Under the Stars event in Media Borough; hosted 150 business, community and government leaders for a networking reception; welcomed 800 alumni, family members and friends for a reunion and open house; served cake and ice cream to students on the actual anniversary day of Sept. 25; received a proclamation from the Delaware County Council and completed the 50-hour community service initiative.
Penn State Delaware County, as it was originally known, began classes on Sept. 25, 1967, in temporary classroom space under a roller skating rink in Chester with 236 students and 11 full-time faculty members. The campus moved to its current location in December 1970, and the name was changed to Penn State Brandywine in 2007.
Today, Brandywine has 1,400 students and 12 majors that can be completed on campus. In August, Brandywine opened Orchard Hall, its first residence hall, and the Student Union, which includes the dining hall, bookstore, and meeting and recreation space.