Oct. 24-Nov. 6, 2003
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Duty in Iraq gives nurse new sense of mission
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Nursing School aims to deepen, diversify nursing pool

Grant to help U.Va. develop historical preservation plan
Meetings scheduled on U.Va. health plan changes
Honor System needs to be overhauled, Bloomfield tells Faculty Senate
Volunteering is Madison House passion
Board sends message with salary hikes
Lawmakers back higher education but can’t agree on how to pay for it
Tracking the railroad
Nov. 20 resource fair welcomes new faculty and staff
Writer Francine Prose comes to U.Va.
Teen grad students excel in academics
Volunteering is Madison House passion
Elizabeth Argeris, second from left, meets with other U.Va. student volunteers at Madison House.
Photos by Michael Bailey
Elizabeth Argeris, second from left, meets with other U.Va. student volunteers at Madison House.

By Lauren Fischer

Within a month of her arrival at U.Va., Elizabeth Argeris couldn’t decide which of her three favorite Madison House programs she wanted to dedicate her spare time to: the Boys and Girls Club, the Boosters or Hoos Against Hunger and Homelessness.

She chose all three.

Elizabeth Bass
Elizabeth Bass
Associate director of programs

Elizabeth Bass, whose own passion for volunteering inspired four years with the day care program, happily returned to Madison House as a full-time employee after completing her master’s degree in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Volunteering has always been a part of me,” said Bass, who now serves as associate director of programs.

These two busy women frequently cross paths at 170 Rugby Road, the cozy brick home of Madison House, the biggest independent, nonprofit volunteer coalition at U.Va. Recently, Madison House has put up some impressive numbers. At the close of the 2001-02 academic year, Madison House’s student volunteers recorded 110,000 hours of service, with an estimated value of $1.75 million. And for the past two years, the organization has recruited an unprecedented 3,000 participants.

Bass advises 170 student leaders, or program directors, who lead 15 different Madison House programs. Projects range from the traditional — the athletic coaching and holiday sharing programs — to the unique, such as the migrant aid and Adopt-a-Grandparent programs.

This year, students will reach out to more than 120 Madison House sites in and beyond Albemarle County, including numerous schools, the Charlottesville Free Clinic in conjunction with Medical Services, and the slopes at Massanutten Ski Resort as part of the adaptive ski program in Rehab Services.

Cindy Fredrick, executive director of Madison House, had difficulty tracking down an organized volunteer program upon moving to Charlottesville a few years ago. Now, she said, the collective Madison House effort touches the lives of about 17,000 people throughout the academic year.

“Madison House takes students outside the U.Va. bubble so they can learn about new people and develop relationships where both lives are enhanced,” she said.

Fredrick attributes Madison House’s recent surge in popularity to the zeal and vision of its program directors. At last year’s Fall Fair at Newcomb Hall, for example, the leaders garnered 250 volunteers in a single day. Argeris and Bass agreed that on-Grounds efforts to publicize the Madison House cause, such as residence-hall-wide information sessions, are essential to their recruiting process.
“We’re equally proactive to people not around Rugby Road,” said Bass, who pointed out that almost 30 percent of volunteers reside in first-year residence halls.

Argeris, who currently serves as student co-chair of the Madison House Board of Directors, added that when she was a first-year student, the trip to Madison House was intimidating, with Rugby Road dominated by fraternity houses and upperclassmen.

“I would have loved having them [Madison House representatives] come to us,” said Argeris.

Word about Madison House’s philanthropy has spread beyond even the most remote on-Grounds housing. A local resident recently donated 25 soccer books to the coaching program. After the man’s daughter graduated in 1997 with four years of experience with the Big Sibling Program, which provides role models and companions for young children, he wanted to invest a little something of his own to a good cause.

Representatives of collegiate volunteer services across the country have jumped on the Madison House bandwagon as well. Virginia Tech, William and Mary, Arizona State and several Florida schools have sought out Fredrick and members of the Board of Directors in an effort to emulate U.Va.’s founding principles of self-governance and student leadership. She believes this is what sets Madison House apart from other university-run programs.

Argeris said Madison House has a less rigid structure than some of her past volunteering experiences. Even though she spends time as a first-grade teacher’s aide and after-school caregiver at Greer Elementary, she has the freedom to plan her own reading activities, computer game sessions and recess schedule.

Fredrick added, “There are less hoops to jump through to get out there and volunteer.”

Independence from U.Va., however, necessitates that Fredrick and the board search for funding. In the $228,000 budget for the current fiscal year, earnings from an Alumni Hall endowment provided $53,000. A student activities fee is expected to provide more than $46,000. The next targeted source: alumni students.

“Their [Madison House alumni] contributions are not as big as they could be,” said Fredrick. Continued alumni interest in the football program, Honor System and even curriculum changes suggests that past volunteers could provide future donations for Madison House.

Should ex-Madison House devotees drop in for a visit, many would hardly recognize their old stomping ground. Grants from the Parents Program have been used to set up a 24-hour planning room and updated computer lounge, and the basement has been converted into a fully equipped kitchen.

For Argeris, watching Charlottesville children develop trust in her and talk about attending U.Va. one day is well worth her time. She plans on sticking around Madison House and staying involved with Boosters until her graduation in May.

“We recognize the love-hate relationship with the community, and we’re one of the things they love,” said Argeris.


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