AUBURN AL– More than 100 Auburn University Athletic Department employees fanned out to 13 work sites in Auburn and Opelika on Monday for the Second Annual Tigers Give Back Community Service Day.
Athletic department coaches, administrators and employees stocked shelves at the East Alabama Food Bank, sorted clothes at the Salvation Army, planted flowers at Town Creek Cemetery and pulled weeds to make way for an edible garden at Wright's Mill Road Elementary School.
Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs spent the day scraping away old paint and adding a fresh coat of white paint to the fences surrounding the City of Auburn's Kiesel Park. Jacobs said the department started Tigers Give Back a year ago to support the community service efforts of its more than 500 student-athletes who have made volunteer work in the community a priority.
"For the second year in a row, we have an Auburn student-athlete who has won the Brad Davis Community Service Award overall for the Southeastern Conference," Jacobs said. "Last year it was (basketball player) Drew Smith, and this year it was Krissy Voss from gymnastics. It just goes to show that if people have a vision and a passion they can accomplish great things. Our student-athletes are leading the way, and we just felt like we need to be involved in supporting their efforts and in giving back to the community."
Auburn gymnastics Coach Rachelle Thompson worked alongside women's golf Coach Kim Evans at the Women's Hope Medical Clinic in Auburn. Thompson and Evans stuffed bags to be distributed to college students in Tuskegee and Auburn with chapstick and information on healthy eating, as well as the health services offered by the clinic.
"I have always known the Women's Medical Clinic was here and what they do, but I didn't realize the scope of how much they are doing to help," Thompson said. "We are just trying to help them get the word out to college students to let them know that this place is here to help them if they need it."
Evans, who has worked actively in the community to get food to the needy for years, said she was glad to be able to spend a day helping at the clinic. "To live in a university town is real special, so it's nice to come here and give back," Evans said.
Director of Sports Medicine Joe Joe Petrone and his staff spent the morning working at Town Creek Cemetery, where they planted rose bushes and seasonal flowers donated by the Auburn Beautification Council. "It's a beautiful day to be out helping the community," Petrone said. "My whole department is out here getting involved and having a good time. It makes you feel good that you can give back."
Head soccer coach Karen Hoppa and equestrian coach Greg Williams and their staffs cleared weeds away from a nature trail and tilled the soil for an edible garden at Wrights Mill Road Elementary School.
"Community service is something we have pushed a lot," Williams said. "I have lived here a long time and my wife is a school teacher and actually used to be at this school, so this has been a lot of fun to be here and to be involved."
Lynda Tremaine, principal at Wright's Mill Elementary School, said the work done in the garden prepared it for students to plant vegetables there.
"What they are doing is kick-starting an outdoor classroom that our students will use to plant an edible garden," Tremaine said. "It makes a strong statement that the Athletic Department is here to help these children be successful. It makes all the difference in the world."
Auburn head baseball Coach John Pawlowski and his staff also participated in Tigers Give Back. They spent the afternoon volunteering at the Opelika unit of the Boys & Girls Club of Lee County. Other agencies and schools that partnered with the athletic department included Azalea Place and Camellia Place retirement communities, Cary Woods Elementary School, Dean Road Elementary and Growing Room Child Development Center.