Missouri State University
Community Involvement and Service
Part of the Center for Community Engagement

Community Engagement Talk Spotlight: Sustainable by Nature

Blog Post: Sustainable By Nature


Sustainability is a word commonly thought of with a grain of sand, many people do not understand that as we as a world continue to higher environmental footprint we must look for various avenues to make changes to strengthen our environment.


This week I would like to spotlight the Company “Sustainable by Nature”. This company, based out of Springfield work to create landscapes that are good for the environment. Sustainable by Nature, known for its work in the Ozarks for helping families and organizations create landscapes and gardens that are not only beautiful but also functional, and productive.

According to the SBN website, the company started from a passion of food, sustainability, and breaking the norms. Their passion for working with the soil and giving it the love it needs to grow the best crop. The sustainability concept comes from the notion that planting a tree is good, but planting a tree that bares fruit is even better. Planting trees is only a small fraction of the masterpieces they create with landscapes. SBN provides 6 specific landscaping services:

Raised Garden Beds

Edible Landscapes & Gardens

They design gardens to match your families or business’s needs. Use some of your outdoor space to nourish your loved ones and keep it looking nice.  They will even help you grow it.


Ecological Landscapes                                       Pollinator Gardens in springfield mo 20160727_153814.jpg

At SbN they focus on healthy ecology and diversity.  They talk about how they want a space where beneficial insects and beautiful wildlife exist. Typical landscapes focus on aesthetics and end up using an inefficient amount of resources. They strive to create spaces that are pleasing to the eye AND the environment.


these are spaces where you can sit down, relax, and enjoy your space with loved ones. Hardscapes are designed to fit naturally into a landscape. Thinking about things such as water run off and natural walking paths. Blending it into the environment.

Outdoor Living  Fire Pit  mf 1.JPG


Water Management

Instead of trying to push off all of the water on the property like a traditional landscaping design, they try and keep as much water on your property as possible. This most natural resource helps your landscape sustain itself as well as the future of our city. They believe each property should have its own water table.

20150722_130213 - Copy.jpeg  French.JPG

Coaching and Maintenance

SBN will show you how to take care of your current yard or garden or you can have them maintenance your property themselves. this is a service they offer to teach preservation of your nature that you have and how to successfully keep your garden intact and thriving.

Permaculture Design

Permaculture is a design science that focus on closed-circuit systems.  So whether you live in suburbia or have hundreds of acres we can help you design and implement productive and regenerative systems. From fruit trees, to livestock, to ponds and a whole lot more.


For More information about Sustainable By Nature  go to their website:  http://www.sustainablebynature.com/

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GEP Day of Service: Students and Instructors Make a Difference!

GEP 101 is an integrative and interdisciplinary seminar designed to introduce students to the public affairs mission, improve students’ academic skills, develop a foundational knowledge of university resources, and facilitate students’ successful transition to Missouri State University’s community of scholars.  As part of GEP 101, first-year students are able to connect with each other and the community through service.  This community engagement piece of the First Year Programs GEP 101 curriculum promotes experiential learning opportunities and enriches the college experience.

On Saturday, February 25, 2017, more than 50 GEP students joined their instructors and exemplified the Public Affairs Mission by creating positive social change alongside two awesome agencies: the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, and Ozarks Food Harvest.

At Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, students spent the morning learning and serving at the Watershed Center, located at 2400 East Valley Water Mill Road.  At this center, groups of all ages can learn about water resources.  Our MSU students rolled up their sleeves to mulch portions of the Watershed’s 2 miles of trails.  After a quick break, some coffee and snacks (thanks to the staff’s generous hospitality), the group spent time shoveling and hauling rocks to create paths close to the creek.  A great sense of teamwork was evident amongst these first-year students and their instructor, Justin Roberts.

Another large group of students worked with GEP Instructor, Mike Mizer at the Ozarks Food Harvest Glean Team.  The group prepared garden beds for planting carrots and radishes and one of the volunteers harvested spinach from the high tunnel.  Many students spent most of the time removing the woodchips from some of the beds, weeding others and filling compost in the carrot beds for planting prep. Some also helped move several cinderblocks from our old compost area out of the way and helped spread mulch to spruce up the area.

Christy Claybaker, the Community Engagement Coordinator at Ozarks Food Harvest provided a great deal of education and direction for students.  Christy explained the importance of volunteers – “We are excited to grow to full capacity in our garden for the first time this season. Our garden is approximately an acre and a half and consists of two high tunnels, 76 raised beds and a 30’x50’ watermelon patch. To date, our glean team volunteers have helped us grow and harvest over 60,000 pounds of local produce between our garden and partnering farms and gardens since the program was revived in June of 2014. We couldn’t do this important work without our volunteers!”

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So What’s The Point?

The Sunday before fall classes start, new students are offered their very first lesson at Missouri State delivered by President Clif Smart at New Student Convocation. The air in JQH Arena is buzzing with the excitement of thousands of students ready to start the new year. After a raucous performance by the university’s pride band, the speakers begin. A guest speaker offers life and college advice, student and faculty leaders are recognized, and the year’s new Public Affairs theme is explained and ready to be implemented. From the moment convocation ends, you will know two things: the Missouri State fight song and the three pillars of the public affairs mission. Ethical Leadership. Community Engagement. Cultural Competence.

From New Student Convocation moving forward, students are inundated with the pillars at every turn without any deeper conception of what they mean. GEP classes are attempted extensions of the public affairs mission. New students are required to buy a common reader, complete service hours, learn how to get involved in campus organizations, etc. However, some first year students have expressed difficulty in finding meaning in certain service aspects of the classes. So, where are they finding meaning?

As a student worker in the Center for Community Engagement, I have approved hundreds of hours through Campus Link. From Boys and Girls Club to Springfield Community Gardens, students are trying to get involved. I feel pride in my university for taking the time to work in cultivating a culture of community engagement within the student body, yet I have found a disconnect in many of the students completing service hours between volunteering and meaningful service. Required service hours have purpose and good intention; however, many students don’t look past the requirement as just another form to fill out or miss the point completely.

But wait, isn’t good intention enough? Why even bring it up? Students are completing their service hours, so what is the point of mentioning individuals’ motivations?

An article written for Staying For Tea, a blog about individual and organization practices regarding community development both internationally and domestically, stated it best:

It’s about strengthening your voice so that you can be an effective advocate, deepening your knowledge so you can be a non-trivial player, and sharpening your skill so you can be a builder of capacity in others. You reveal your own prejudice that service is more about good intentions than effectiveness. Good intentions aren’t worth much if they bring harm to the people you intend to serve.

So what harm is it for a bunch of college students to complete their required community service hours any way they can? Well, there is no harm in doing the work. Harm comes from the reliance on good intention alone. There is harm when students reflecting on their service think simply giving community agencies the time of day is true selflessness rather than the work they have done. Finally, there is harm when students find that they are the single entity on which community partners rely and without whom the agency would have nothing.

Now, this is not every student by any means, but the sentiment is shared by too many of the students I have come into contact with. It is evident that deeper conversations must be had.  A solid base for passion and thoughtfulness is essential for effective service. For this reason, I challenge Missouri State students. It is quite a task to try and stir up passion for serving in just four short years, but it is possible. As a public affairs-driven university, I argue that it is our duty to jump start an ideological shift. We have the student population to complete effective work in the community. We have a large sector of students who are required to complete dozens of service hours before they graduate. We have a city chock full community partners who would love student involvement and a city with its fair share of issues to address. The resources for meaningful service are all around us. On campus, the Center for Community Engagement provides service learning and community involvement resources. Organizations such as Bear Breaks and Bear Service Team offers many opportunities to serve all over the country and reflect on the issues that need to be addressed. The list of community partners looking for engaging students is endless and the Center can assist any student looking to get involved.

I hope that in writing this piece I don’t deter participation in service opportunities nor do I want students to feel like I am writing this to scold them. Rather, I aspire to bring education and meaning to the service that Missouri State’s students are involved in. I don’t have all the answers, but instead want to introduce a conversation that needs to be had. Are we helping our students to become passionate and productive community members or are we facilitating an unsustainable volunteer effort? When service is seen as a means to a mandatory end, what can we do to create the necessary community connections and passions for community engagement that will last past graduation? When there isn’t a scholarship or student organization pushing you out into the community, what will you do?

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Community Involvement Fair

Here at the CCE we serve as a liaison between community non-profits and students. Every semester we host a Community Involvement Fair where we give our partners an opportunity to talk to students and meet them in their comfort zone.

On February 8th we hosted the Spring 2017 Community Involvement Fair. More than 30 agencies from the Springfield area came to the Plaster Student Union and talked with students about their organization. Students were met with opportunities galore: service learning, volunteering, and for a lucky few, internships. Even for those that may not have been looking for an organization to get involved with, it was a great chance to learn about opportunities you didn’t know existed.


Personally, I learned about several new community partners and had great conversations with those that I had met before. I was able to walk away more aware of the community and how we can attack issues that plague it. No matter what your passion is, there was an organization hoping to recruit you: mental health, hunger, homelessness, literacy, domestic violence– I could go on forever.

If you are upset that you missed you missed this fair, fear not! There will be another fair next semester! In the mean time, you can keep up with community partners at givepulse.com. If you have questions about service in general, you can visit our website here or visit us at our office in the PSU 131.

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Public Affairs in 2017: Continuing Community Engagement in the New Year

It’s time to continue our community engagement efforts in 2017! Here is a short recap of the Fall 2016 semester, and a look ahead at how to make a difference this year.

A Look Back at 2016

From serving on a huge scale alongside our Springfield community to traveling many miles to learn and serve with other community leaders, Missouri State students had a lot to be proud of in Fall 2016. Following a service model of Educate, Engage, Reflect, students participated in local events like Into the Streets, Meals A Million, GEP Day of Service, Stomp Out Hunger, and Bear Blitz. As active participants of these programs, students learned about community agencies (learning partners) and about the key issues faced in our community. They also engaged in meaningful and direct service before reflecting through critical thinking exercises. If you would like to take an active role in leading one of these events, please come to the Center for Community Engagement, or check out Bear Service Team!

Bear Breaks also made great strides in 2016 with their Immersion Trips! 20 students traveled to Kansas City and St. Louis in the Fall to focus on Health and Wellness and Food Insecurity. These groups worked alongside community leaders, and brought back knowledge of active citizenship and community building to Springfield! Pop the College Bubble. Be Fully Present. Spread the Love. This, the motto of Bear Breaks took shape last week, as students served in Costa Rica, working alongside coffee farmers to learn about sustainability, Eco-agriculture, and community building. During this week, students blogged about their experiences at blogs.missouristate.edu/immersion and will be discussing creating change in our local community!


Get Involved this Semester!

As this semester begins, you might be thinking about how you can learn more about community engagement efforts. Here is a short list of ways you can be a part of the fun:

Stop by the Center for Community Engagement in PSU 131 to learn talk with us about how you would like to get involved and make a difference.  Have a great semester!

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Why I Serve

The clock strikes five o’clock. Puzzle pieces are
quickly disassembled and thrown into their respective boxes. Kids put on their coats and grab their backpacks before trickling out the door into the arms of their guardians.

This is a typical day at the after-school program I volunteer at. Culture Club provides a safe, constructive environment for elementary-age students of Boyd Elementary, a school that lies in a part of Springfield that faces many challenges. Eighty-two percent of students that attend Boyd are enrolled in the
free and reduced lunch program. Students such as these are at a disadvantage when it comes to being successful in their education, attending college, and ultimately breaking the cycle of poverty.

This isn’t an issue exclusive to one school or one neighborhood. 1 in 4 people in Springfield live below the national poverty line. These are often hardworking, good people working multiple jobs just to stay afloat. Many lack the means of providing the necessities and essentials for their families.

That is where the importance of volunteer programs comes in. Programs such as Culture Club make a difference in the lives of students. Volunteers work with kids on their homework, helping them through their assignments before letting them go play. The program provides a hot meal before the kids leave to ensure they don’t go to bed hungry. Many of these kids might not receive assistance with their academics or even a warm meal anywhere else.

But how do I justify taking the time out of my day to volunteer? I’m a college student. I have a busy schedule. I have to work to pay my bills, and I appreciate finding a coupon for a half-off pizza just as much as the next person.

A particular instance comes to mind. I had been volunteering regularly at this after-school program for quite some time–long enough that I had developed a relationship with several kids. One in particular, I would always help him with his math homework. Over the weeks, I saw the fourth grader make strides in his math homework. The grades were one thing, but he had developed a sense of ownership and and enthusiasm toward learning. He genuinely wanted to succeed. As the semester’s end neared, I told him I wouldn’t be back for several weeks. He inquired why, and said, “Don’t
leave. Everybody always leaves me.”

I serve to make a positive impact on others. To inspire success. To use my talents and resources to improve the life of someone else. It’s our duty to lend an assisting hand to others, and to provide for their most basic needs if we have the means of doing so.

The Springfield area faces a variety of challenges that take all sorts of skillsets to overcome. Check out the Community Focus Report at http://springfieldcommunityfocus.org/
to learn how you can make a difference in someone else’s life.

-Brandon McCoy, junior Economics major

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Making a Difference Behind the Scenes

From Small Town to Springfield

Missouri State University’s Public Affairs mission is often something that is overlooked by both prospective and current students. While it is an extremely important aspect of the university, it is easy to be hidden underneath all of the other beautiful amenities Missouri State has to offer. This week, students are encouraged to focus on one specific pillar of the Public Affairs mission – Community Engagement. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’” Well, this week the students, faulty, and alumni of Missouri State University need to focus on answering that question. What are YOU doing to help others in your community?

thumbnail_img_0902  I left the small town I call home to come to Missouri State University in the Fall of 2013. While I did not realize it growing up, I quickly discovered that I had been extremely sheltered in my small, quiet town. I was never openly exposed to homelessness, hunger, or poverty. Although I know now that those issues were present where I grew up, they were always hidden from me as a child and adolescent. When I moved to Springfield, it became common to witness poverty wherever I went; I even witnessed it frequently on Missouri State’s campus.

At the beginning of this semester, I was in the right place at the right time and I was offered the opportunity to work in the Center for Community Engagement office. It was through this facility that I first learned about the Bear Blitz project. I learned about the current issues Springfield was facing through the Community Focus report, and how Northwest Springfield in particular was facing problems like access to food and transportation. When looking at the problems from a broad perspective, the idea of trying to make a difference seems like a challenging and daunting task. However, when many volunteers are willing to contribute their time and labor, the potential to change lives is incredible.

Vision Screening Program

The Vision Screening Program is a project that reaches out to daycares, elementary schools, and other establishments in an attempt to provide free vision screenings and color vision testing. The project uses a Spot Vision Screener, which is a portable, hand held hi-tech camera that takes a picture of the eyes. The camera can provide information as to whether or not the person being screened has myopia, hyperopia, or an astigmatism, and it is able to screen individuals as early as 6 months old. The program also includes color vision testing, which is completed by using a ColorDx testing booklet. The camera stores information like age and gender along with the screening results, which will be used in the future for research purposes. Although the focus of the program is mainly directed at children, the Vision Screening Program also extends their services to organizations like the Salvation Army Harbor House, and the Salvation Army Food Pantry, so that adults may be screened for free as well.

I am a research assistant for the Vision Screening Project. My jobs involve calling daycares and schools to schedule screenings, preparing packets of permission forms and information, preparing spreadsheets, and filing information. Although I normally perform the “behind the scenes” work of the project, I sometimes get the chance to participate in the actual screenings. After a whole semester of working on this project I finally got to lead my own vision screening, where I was personally able to screen 215 children completely on my own. It was so rewarding to actually go out into the community and see the difference the program was making firsthand, especially after all of the office work I had done to prepare for these events.

This experience has opened my eyes to the urgent need for change in the Springfield community, but it has also showed me the challenges associated with making that change. It is important to realize that volunteering isn’t all glamorous, and that not all parts of the process provide the same feeling of euphoria one gets when directly
helping others. The Springfield community needs Citizen Bears both behind the scenes and in the field in order to make sustainable, long lasting change.

-Lucy Beeler, Senior, Research Assistant in the Center for Community Engagement



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It Takes a Community

Bear Blitz is this year’s Public Affairs Signature Event, an event that really puts students out there to learn more about the issues Springfield faces as a community, how those affect the state, country, and world, and how they also affect each and every person in their daily walk. Bear Blitz is the University sending students to the streets of Northwest Springfield, referred to as Zone 1. A result of much research and planning, The Zone 1 Blitz is a city wide effort to improve the neighborhoods of Zone 1 and make for healthier and safer living. Much of the work being done is through the Springfield Community Gardens. These are places that residents can visit to receive fresh produce, and learn about healthy lifestyle choices they could implement into their own life. Through Bear Blitz, Missouri State students were able to help to make this goal a reality for the residents of those neighborhoods.

It is worth mentioning, I have worked in many community gardens around the country. Through Bear Breaks Immersion trips I have been able to witness different types of gardens in different cities, that each focus on specific issues that plague their community. I have had great experiences, and some that were not so great. I have learned more than I can fit into one post about how big of an impact a garden can make on a community. But what I have learned most was driven deeper today than I can imagine. I was reminded one person cannot possibly maintain a garden for an entire community, but when an entire community comes together, no one person has to feel like they are over worked. As I have heard it put, “Many hands make for light work.”

I volunteered at the Hovey House Community Garden, and had an experience I won’t soon forget. It may have been a little slow at times, but that led to discussions and relationship building that cannot be rivaled. I like to say, “Friends that serve together, stay together,” and I think there is more truth to it than I know. Relationships built around service are built on mutual respect, humility, humanity, meaningful dialogue and vulnerability.

johnTo begin our service I was given a shovel and told to loosen up the soil so marble slabs that had been buried would be able to be reached. Honestly, I was a little disappointed. I wasn’t getting the chance to get my hands dirty, or do anything that I had really expected. Hopeful for work that would be more “fun”, I, along with another MSU volunteer, was given a pitchfork and told to go find the previously mentioned marble slab. After about thirty minutes of stabbing the ground with a fork hoping to hit a rock, we had collected three slabs of marble about the size of a keyboard. We were fooled time and again by pebbles that would hit the pitchfork only to let our hopes down when we dug around. I finally got my hands dirty and felt like I did something, even if I had few results to show for it.

The next phase was the part that will keep me coming back. A truck Ozarks Food Harvest came and delivered dozens of boxes of food, the majority being fruits and vegetables. I was not sure what the purpose was at the time, but I jumped in and carried things where I could. What blew me away was the efficiency at which everyone worked to unload the truck. Even with between 10-15 volunteers and a very small shed,I never felt cramped. Everyone was split into three stations, unloading, unpacking and box tear down. I am not exaggerating when I say the hundreds of pounds of food had been sorted and packed away withing about ten minutes of beginning. For a short time I stopped and tried to just take a step back to realize how amazing this system was working.

While I was welcome to leave after this, I stayed for about another hour. I sat and talked to other volunteers, mostly just community members, for almost all of it. I asked how they became involved, what kept them coming back, and more and answered similar questions, but more than anything we just talked. We shared life experiences, stories, and thoughts. We swapped ideas, opinions, and goals. It was unbelievably refreshing. So often when we serve, we are not actually serving with our whole heart, but instead just getting our hours in for our scholarships, classes, organizations, or resumes. Being out there this week helped me to realize how many people live in Zone 1 and are looking to improve their life. They are looking for a way to enrich their lives, and many of those I met today are able to use service to their community as the vehicle.

Bear Blitz encourages students to pop the college bubble. It challenges preconceived notions and forces inward reflection. All it takes is an hour of your time and you can go from being frustrated with digging for rocks to being an engaged citizen that is eager to learn about others’ lives and what they think. It’s that easy. For more information on how you can serve these communities, feel free to visit the Center for Community Engagement in PSU 131, online at our website, or at http://givepulse.com. There is so much work to be done, we cannot possibly do it on our own, but any hands we can get lightens the load.

-John Lang, Junior, Student Coordinator, Center for Community Engagement

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Bear Blitz: Committing to Change

My experience serving as a coach for Girls on the Run


Serving Community Needs

This week, Missouri State students have been challenged to put the Public Affairs Mission into action by serving Springfield in the ways it needs the most help. Various projects including the Community Focus Report and Community Listen meetings have helped determine what the true needs of the Springfield community are. These reports provide a great deal of information on where our community struggles, as well as what it struggles most with. This week, I want to focus on a need that resonates with students.

At Missouri State, many of us fall into the category of students who are required to complete service for one reason or another. All too often, we are guilty of completing our service as just that, required. Many of us, myself included at times, complete service like an item on our to do list, we find one Saturday that we are free and find any service opportunity  that will result in “approved” service. While giving your time, however you decide to do it, is valuable, what the community truly needs is individuals who volunteer on a regular basis.

Long-term volunteers are individuals an organization, a community, or an individual can count on to be a consistent contribution to change. This could be volunteering biweekly at the Community Gardens of Springfield, providing childcare at The Fairbanks every Thursday, or whatever way your interests and skills can benefit the community best. For me, it was serving as a coach for Girls on the Run of Southwest Missouri.

Girls on the Run

Girls on the Run is a program that inspires confidence and healthy choices in girls in the 3rd-5th grade. After a full year of avoiding the organization because I was not a runner, I first became involved with the program in the fall of 2014 as a full-time coach. I was assigned to work at a Title I school in Northwest Springfield. I was told this was a school that sometimes had a great deal of behavioral issues, as well as a difficulty with coach retention.13151460_10156804397250532_2094289976125055707_n

My first season was not easy, and there were many hurdles in volunteering. It was scary to commit a semester’s worth of Monday and Wednesday afternoons to volunteering. There were a lot of behavioral issues and girls who had a hard time listening to a group of college-aged coaches they had never met. However, it was not long before I recognized the difference we were making.

I continued to coach at this school for five consecutive seasons. Myself, and another coach actually scheduled our classes around our “Girls on the Run Time.” As the seasons continued, we built relationships with the girls, their parents, and the faculty at the school. As those relationships grew, so did our girls. We have a mixture of girls who are repeat participants and brand new participants each season. Girls who were our most problematic girls in our first season turned into leaders who were the first to answer a question or help out another teammate.

I graduate this December, so this Monday I coached my very last practice with the school I have spent five seasons and two and a half years with. I have had the fortune of serving an organization that I am passionate about and seeing the results right in front of my eyes. I can say that I have made a difference in the lives of girls who have also made a huge difference in mine. It is the relationships that I built through my commitment to this cause and these girls that allowed me to make a bigger impact than I could have ever hoped for.

It is tempting to get caught up in tomorrow’s exam, next week’s work schedule, and that meeting every Tuesday that always goes over time, and convince yourself that you do not have the time to commit yourself to one more thing. However, I challenge you to find the time. Find something that you are passionate about and commit yourself to change. By doing this, we as Citizen Bears can make the greatest impact on our community, the impact the community truly needs.

If you need assistance finding a long-term service opportunity that fits your interests, visit the Center for Community Engagement in PSU 131. You can also contact us at 417-836-5774, or by email at volunteer@missouristate.edu. 

-Melissa Stallbaumer, Student Specialist in the Center for Community Engagement



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Panhellenic Association a Partner for Bear Blitz and Beyond


The Panhellenic Association is proud to partner with the Center for Community Engagement in support of the Zone 1 Blitz. Our hope is that we can positively impact the Springfield community with our time, our talents, and our philanthropic donations.

Many of Missouri State University’s sororities support local and national philanthropies that help families battling cancer, premature babies, children who are hard of hearing, promote physical activities for children, children with developmental delays, Alzheimer’s, and adults as they age. Missouri State University’s Panhellenic organizations are supporting every stage of life within families. Because of this, The Panhellenic Association is working to encourage its sororities to serve the families living in Zone 1 in any capacity they are able.

This service may include women babysitting for families attending a session at the Drew Lewis Foundation. Every Thursday at the Drew Lewis Foundation, the Grant Beach Neighborhood can take classes learning about pregnancy and how to sew. Or, this service may include donating food to people and families in areas of Zone 1 who are unable to afford food or afford the transportation to a market.

Ultimately, the goal of the Panhellenic Association is to assist the Center for Community Engagement in any capacity needed. We are proud to serve the Springfield community and Zone 1. You can find more information about the Zone 1 Bear Blitz here.


-Mickie Plummer, senior Socio-Political Communication major, Panhellenic Association: Vice President of Community Relations

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