It’s never too late to start making a difference for an organization whose ideals resonate with your own.
Just ask recent UVA graduate Lauryn Washington.
Though she didn’t start volunteering with Madison House until her fourth year, public service always played an influential role in her development as a UVA student and alumni leader.
“Volunteering with Madison House was on my personal bucket list and it was also on the list of ‘116 Things to Do Before You Graduate,” Lauryn remembers of her last year at UVA. She joined Madison House’s Day Care program and quickly became a regular weekly volunteer at Charlottesville’s Congregation Beth Israel (CBI), the only synagogue in the area.
“I didn’t know much about Jewish culture,” Lauryn says. “I got to see the different kinds of food they ate and how they raised their children being Jewish. It was a good experience for me, because I never had known these things.”
Prior to volunteering through Madison House at CBI, Lauryn volunteered with Day in the Life’s NAACP partnership through the UVA Curry School of Education’s service-learning program. As an African-American and African studies major with a minor in sociology, Lauryn believes in the importance and value of celebrating cultural influence and history.
“It’s important to recognize how [African-Americans] have contributed to American culture as a whole,” says Lauryn. “It’s about being sure that’s recognized and stabilized.”
Lauryn’s passion for celebrating and honoring diverse cultures led her to her current job at the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation — a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The Foundation provides scholarships, alumni recognition, and technical assistance. Lauryn says it’s important to showcase these historic colleges and remind everyone of the work these institutions and their alumni accomplish.
Her desire to become more affiliated with UVA as an alumna and to find ways to give back to her new community in Atlanta compelled Lauryn to join Madison House’s Alumni Council (MHAC). Comprised of Madison House alumni from around the country and from a wide range of graduating classes MHAC works to support and strengthen Madison House in the pursuit of its mission, while also continuing the tradition of service in UVA alumni communities. In the last year, Lauryn organized a handful of service events in Atlanta with dozens of UVA alumni, former Madison House volunteers, and community members participating.
“It’s a good way to give back to my own community while still staying tied to UVA,” Lauryn says of her MHAC involvement. “I’m doing this because I really, really want to.”
In response to Hurricane Harvey, Lauryn organized an MHAC service event at the Atlanta Community Toolbank, which helps affiliated nonprofits and agencies save on equipment costs by lending 234 different types of tools. Lauryn and the other alumni volunteers helped the Toolbank move into an expanded location. She remembers how much gratitude the Toolbank staff members expressed to Lauryn and her team of volunteers, and how the staff said that, together, the team had accomplished in a few hours what would have taken the staff a week or more.
Lauryn’s message to Madison House alumni looking for service leadership opportunities and events in their communities? “Join MHAC. It’s a very good way to give back to your own community and still be tied to Madison House at UVA,” Lauryn says. “If you volunteered at Madison House, you understand.”
Image: 2017-2018 Head Program Director and Program Directors
Barrett Early Learning Center, Chancellor Street Preschool, Congregation Beth Israel, Mollie Michie Preschool, The International School of Charlottesville, Piedmont Family YMCA, ReadySteps Day Care, University Child Development Center, Westminster Child Care Center