By Clint Kimberling
Most people view the act of volunteering as a chore, or maybe something they begrudgingly do a few Saturdays out of the year, but Meggan Franks has made a career out of it.
Franks is the Assistant Director of the Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement at Mississippi State University, where her primary responsibility is overseeing the Maroon Volunteer Center. Under her leadership, the center connects over 6,000 students, faculty and staff with community agencies and volunteer opportunities within Oktibbeha County.
Franks is an MSU grad and former varsity track athlete who has been with the Maroon Volunteer Center since 2010. After working at a few other jobs, Franks said she just wasn’t feeling very satisfied or fulfilled, so she jumped at the opportunity to work at the MVC and couldn’t be happier.
Franks juggles a lot of responsibilities from her office and says there is no such thing a typical word day for her. She could be at a volunteer site, teaching her mentor class or mentor training, overseeing programs or helping a student who drops by her office. Franks really enjoys being hands on. “I like going to service sites with students, hammering nails, getting dirty. I get sad during summer when students are gone,” she says.
The Maroon Volunteer Center was originally established after Hurricane Katrina as a way to coordinate volunteer efforts. Shortly after that, the center organized a service project through Starkville Habitat for Humanity that involved all freshman students. Since then, the MVC has maintained its relationship with Habitat as well as several other community partners and continued to grow. The center now offers over 260 ways for students to volunteer and has an annual volunteer base of about 6,000 people.
Franks says, “When students get involved they are able to learn more about Starkville and the community surrounding the university. They are able to see the need and value in volunteering. Plus it’s a great way to meet other students.”
Service is a component of the official MSU mission statement. Franks says that’s it’s not just an empty slogan, but there is a real culture of service on campus. “It’s developed over time; students have really taken that on and helped create culture. It starts with upperclassmen setting an example for freshman.”
Events like Service D.A.W.G.S go a long way to get new students involved early. The “Donate a Wonderful Gift of Service” event, which is held just after move-in day, gives new students a chance to not only get involved early but also learn more about service organizations on campus. In the spring, MVC also organizes The Big Event — a one-day service event for the MSU community that will send student leaders and volunteers to 67 different service sites. “It’s an annual tradition that’s become very popular, and we have hundreds of students participate,” Franks explains.
Other programs Franks and the MVC administer include the food security network that assists the MSU community in locating available food resources in the area. The goal is to match individuals with an agency that can accommodate them based on their food security needs. An extension of that is Block by Block Meal Program that acts as a virtual food bank that provides meal assistance to students who are in need. All students with a valid meal plan may donate one block meal per year to the program. “This was created to help students that may not be getting enough to eat. We distributed about 1700 meals last year.”
Franks wants students to think of volunteering opportunities as more than just resume builders. “Volunteering makes you feel good. You’ll never feel bad after doing 3 hours of habitat building. You’ll never regret that. I tell students to keep in mind that you’re part of making progress. The work you did made it possible for a family to have a new home.”
The Maroon Volunteer Center is not just for college students. In fact, community involvement is welcome. To learn more about volunteer opportunities around Starkville visit http://www.mvc.msstate.edu to see upcoming events and sign up their weekly newsletter.
By Clint Kimberling