Written by Ron Wagner

A Culture of Service Heller Service Corps turns 50

A Culture of Service Heller Service Corps turns by Ron Wagner

Story by Ron Wagner ’93
Photography by Jeremy Fleming ’08

In September, the Heller Service Corps announced that it would mark its 50th anniversary by challenging alumni, faculty, staff, and friends to complete 50,000 acts of kindness by the end of October.

The service agency blew past that goal after three weeks, and the numbers continued to grow into November.

Such is the nature and legacy of Heller Service Corps, which wrapped a month-long celebration of its 50th anniversary. Volunteers were asked to report their “acts of kindness,” an objective that was met by the time the Paladin football team hosted The Citadel on Oct. 24 for Homecoming.

Heller kept a daily running tally of the number on its website, and by October 31, the tally cracked 60,000.

Heller Service Corps works with more than 60 agencies in the Upstate behind the strength of as many as 1,800 Furman students, making it the largest student organization on campus.

“People actually documented where they were working or what they donated, and they posted their pics on social media. So that inspired and energized more people to participate, and it also sparked a dialogue around the value and rewards of giving back,” Elizabeth Geer, Furman’s creative services director, said.

At homecoming, approximately 350 people attended the Heller Service Corps Anniversary Tailgate, and 300 representatives from 63 local agencies with which Heller works attended the game, according to Nancy Cooper, Furman’s longtime coordinator for volunteer services. That made for a fun afternoon of catching up.

“I’ve been here 27 years, so I got to see folks who served with Heller (then CESC) as students in 1988. There were a lot of wonderful stories and memories,” Cooper said, referring to Heller’s predecessor, Collegiate Educational Service Corps. “There was a wonderful turnout, just an affirmation that they carried the spirit of Heller Service Corps with them after their college years. That’s what it’s all about.”

Other anniversary celebration highlights included the third annual Dance Marathon on October 17, which doubled its goal by raising more than $18,000 for the Greenville Children’s Hospital, the Fall Fest on October 31, which drew hundreds of children for a carnival and trick-or-treating, and multiple collaborations that increased the impact of the giving.

“One of the biggest successes of the celebration is that it increased awareness of what our students are doing in the community and the many ways that Furman University impacts Greenville.” Geer said. “The reason that almost half of our student body participates in Heller Service Corps is that service is part of our culture here, and it was nice to see academic departments, alumni, and the community come together to celebrate that.”