Coker Gives Back: 9-11 National Day of Service

9/11 National Day of Service Photo Gallery

For more information, contact Ashley Simatic - 843.383.8018

Flowerbeds overgrown with weeds and walls covered in cracked, chipped paint are just two of the things that received makeovers September 11 as Coker College volunteers spread themselves throughout Hartsville in observation of the National Day of Service and Remembrance.

More than 140 Coker students, faculty and staff offered helping hands to Kalmia Gardens, the Darlington County Community Action Agency, the Hartsville Boys & Girls Club and the Darlington County Habitat for Humanity in one of the College’s largest-ever coordinated service projects.

“It’s important for our students to serve, to act and to do, and that is exactly what came to fruition on this National Day of Service and Remembrance,” said Coker President Dr. Robert Wyatt. “By working with local organizations, Coker students are making life-changing differences in the Hartsville community while at the same time learning about the tremendous impact that can be made through coordinated teamwork.”

As a part of Coker’s First Year Experience, the College has implemented a course available to freshmen that includes a community service component. This portion of the four-year program has helped the College realize its goal of students learning through doing, as the course requires students to participate in volunteer projects like the recent efforts on September 11.

“Through our day of service and by continually giving our students opportunities to give back throughout their college careers, we are engaging them in their own learning while helping our community,” said Darlene Small, Assistant Dean/Director of the Center for Engaged Learning.  “This, in turn, prepares our students to take their places as active citizens in the real world.”

At Kalmia Gardens, volunteers planted flowers, created hypertufa containers, distributed pine straw, weeded, picked up trash and spread sand for the human sundial project. Mary Ridgeway, Director of Kalmia Gardens, said she was thrilled with the concentrated wave of help from students.

“Not only are we improving the gardens, but we’re also bridging the gap between Kalmia and Coker College,” she said. “Kalmia is the students’ garden, and many of them didn’t even know about it until today.”

Meanwhile, volunteers joined forces across town to prepare the old Thornwell School for Darlington County Community Action Agency’s relocation to that site.

“The Coker effort is a tremendous help to us in the cleaning process,” said Dr. Nick Nicholson, Executive Director of Darlington County Community Action Agency. “The volunteering of students, faculty and staff has kicked off a wonderful, long-term relationship between Community Action and Coker College.”

Dr. Nicholson is looking forward to future involvement with Coker. Community Action can provide valuable, hands-on learning experiences to students pursuing careers in early childhood education, psychology and counseling, which will be beneficial to both the students and Community Action.

As students trimmed overgrown hedges, cut grass and scrubbed dirty walls and floors at the old Thornwell School, another group of students labored at the Hartsville Boys & Girls Club.

“Hartsville can really see that Coker’s doing its part,” said Sylvester Graham, Team Center Mentor at the Hartsville Boys & Girls Club, as he watched students dip their rollers into paint trays.

The Boys & Girls Club wasn’t the only location getting a fresh coat of paint courtesy of Coker volunteers.

“Thanks to the help from Coker, we will be able to completely paint two houses in just two hours,” said Mark Haenchen, Executive Director of Darlington County Habitat for Humanity, while volunteers flooded two houses that will eventually become homes to low income families.

As volunteers left the sites at the end of the day, it became apparent that they, like the walls they had painted and the gardens they had weeded, had undergone a makeover. Covered in dust and muck mingled with sweat, outwardly they appeared different and perhaps an internal change had occurred as well.

“Finally,” said Kentesha Jenkins, a freshman at Coker College. “Finally, I feel as if I’ve made a difference.”


Coker College readies undergraduates for personal and professional success through a distinctive four-year program that emphasizes a practical application of the liberal arts as well as hands-on and discussion-based learning within and beyond the classroom. Coker is ranked among the “Best Colleges” in the South by U.S. News & World Report as well as The Princeton Review. Located in Hartsville, S.C., Coker is within two hours of the cultural, financial and recreational resources of Charlotte, Columbia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach.

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