Serving Others | Eastern North Carolina Now

Mystery service trips take students into eastern NC communities

    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Crystal Baity.

East Carolina University students volunteered at a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending human trafficking during Mystery Service on Saturday. (Contributed photos)

    The intrigue of not knowing where you're going but making a difference when you get there is enticing East Carolina University students to volunteer for Mystery Service Saturdays.

    Spots fill quickly for the weekend events that have grown in popularity since starting in 2019, said Alex Dennis, senior assistant director in the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE). "I think it is the mystery element, but also the fact that it is a small group with transportation and lunch being provided by CLCE," he said.

    "For students who don't have cars on campus or students who are new to the eastern region, they're getting an opportunity to step out of the Greenville community and go impact another community. You're also taking a little bit of ECU with you because we're all from ECU," said Shayia Coltrane, a senior majoring in social work and a CLCE staff member. "These spots are always filled. Nobody knows what they're doing, but everybody wants to go."

    Volunteers travel on a 15-passenger van within about an hour's drive of Greenville to work with community partners outside of Pitt County, allowing students to learn more about the culture of eastern North Carolina, Dennis said.

    ECU students have served from Scotland Neck to New Bern with a host of organizations including Habitat for Humanity, the N.C. Blind Center, Pamlico Rose, ABC2, Baptist Children's Home of N.C.-Kennedy Home and Sylvan Heights Bird Park, among others.

    On Saturday, ECU students worked at Cry Freedom Ministries in Goldsboro, a nonprofit dedicated to ending human trafficking and exploitation. The students organized donations of furniture, diapers, clothes, wipes, totes and more.

    "Having the opportunity to hear about and see the work that is being done to stop human trafficking in eastern North Carolina served to raise awareness and educate me about the reality of this issue being close to home," said George Cherry Jr., student leadership assistant in the CLCE who is earning three degrees with plans for medical school. "It has inspired me to continue to support the work in any way possible even after the service event on Saturday."

    Offered twice a semester, Mystery Service Saturday is part of the ECU Pirates Give initiative that supports and coordinates service opportunities for students, Dennis said.

    One of Coltrane's first trips was to help clean and paint at the Kennedy Home in Kinston that had been flooded during a hurricane. "I love that you can see the impact right then and there," she said. "You can see how relieved they are, just being able to lessen the burden on someone who's already trying to lessen the burden for someone else."

    Serving others is a calling for Coltrane, who has experienced food insecurity and homelessness in her life. She's in the process of applying to graduate school for social work. "I know the work will fulfill me," she said. "I feel like I'm meant to be a living example.

    "As long you help one person, if you put a smile on one person's face because of what you did, then you've made a difference," she said. "Any difference is big enough."

    ECU graduate student Cara Gordon decided to dedicate more time to helping others after she started listening to Jay Shetty's "On Purpose" podcast and read his book during the pandemic.

    "I made it my purpose in 2022 to serve others where I could, as much as I could," said Gordon, whose work has included building raised plant beds and uncovering forgotten cemeteries to cleaning out a barn to become a craft/yoga studio for female veterans recovering from PTSD.

    "You can see how happy they were to have people involved in what they're doing," she said. "It's really cool to work with these people and learn about their causes and learn from other people about what brings them out to volunteer."

    Gordon also worked with Beast Philanthropy in its mission to fight food insecurity in Pitt and surrounding counties. "I sorted through donations and packed boxes for distribution, and I volunteered at the actual distributions too," said Gordon, who is earning an MBA and a master's in sustainable tourism and is vice president of service for ECU's chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa, a leadership honor society.

    After graduation in May, Gordon plans to continue volunteering. "There are so many areas that need people to give their time," she said. "If you're looking to fill a void, you can do that by serving others."

    Cherry said getting the opportunity to connect with and serve so many communities and causes that he otherwise wouldn't have been able to experience is why he loves working at the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement. "My heart beats according to the rhythm of service!" he said.

    ECU students will be out in communities across North Carolina next week during Alternative Spring Break. Other upcoming events include Purple Pantry Week, March 20-24, and Yam Jam, March 22. The next Mystery Service Saturday is set for April 1. Registration is full but students can put their name on a wait list.
Go Back

Leave a Guest Comment

Your Name or Alias
Your Email Address ( your email address will not be published)
Enter Your Comment ( no code or urls allowed, text only please )

Gaming Health Education East Carolina University, School News, The Region, Neighboring Counties Donation Of Love


Latest Neighboring Counties

Members of the North Carolina Rural Health Association (NCRHA) visited Washington, D.C., on Feb. 14, 2024, to meet with elected officials and advocate for policies to improve access to care in rural areas.
The US Supreme Court will not take the case of Virginia-based owners of a Dare County beach home who challenged the county's COVID-related shutdown in 2020.
The North Carolina State Fair is set for the Raleigh state fairgrounds from October 12-22, 2023
A $2.5-billion-dollar bond referendum is slated to be placed on the November ballot this year, as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) looks for support to fund 30 different projects in the school district.
Five Asheville-area residents are suing the city in federal court for refusing to appoint them to the local Human Relations Commission. The residents claim they were rejected because they are white.
Federal grant expands midwifery care for North Carolina
Pirates achieve historic sponsored activities funding
Innovative new MBA pathway provides leadership experiences for students, companies


Back to Top