Turn the calendar back 40 years, and events like Woodstock and the Apollo lunar landing spring to mind.
In Virginia, the summer of 1969 is memorable for one of the worst natural disasters to hit the state—Hurricane Camille. Though the storm killed 113 people and cost $116 million in damage, it also provided the impetus for an organization that has grown to become UVA’s signature student outreach program.
Madison House grew from the efforts of UVA volunteers to help storm victims. They worked beside doctors, helped rebuild houses and provided other community services. From that seed, the group has grown to about 3,300 students who volunteer at more than 90 sites in the area each week.
“For four decades, Madison House has brought students together around a shared interest in community service,” said Patricia Lampkin, UVA’s vice president and chief student affairs officer.
A party held in Mad Bowl in October launched a yearlong celebration of Madison House’s 40th anniversary. Photos taken over the years and stories about accomplishments are being collected for an official timeline of the organization.
That timeline will show just four programs in the early years. Now there are 19, and volunteers serve as tutors, construction workers, day-care supporters, peer counselors and more. They provide 110,000 hours of donated service valued at more than $2.2 million dollars annually.
While helping others is the foundation of such service, volunteers talk about how much the work affects their own lives.
“Madison House was really where I found community—a community of friends and meaningful work,” says Ashley Cochrane (Col ’95). “It helped me to get beyond the University and get connected to the community.”
Now associate director for Berea College’s Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service, Cochrane received the Madison House Legacy of Service Award this spring. The organization itself has received numerous honors, ranging from the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program’s 2008 Housing Hero Award to being cited twice by the national Points of Light Foundation.
Though the group has six paid staff members, Madison House is run by students. Each volunteer contributes five to 10 hours a week—over the course of 40 years the total has come to more than 3 million hours of community service.
The value of small steps toward a larger goal is not lost on Robin Kendall (Com ’11), who directs student tutoring at a local elementary school.
“Although one weekly tutoring session may not seem like a lot,” she says, “having even one child excited to learn is an important step to making a better world.”