The Kernodle Center for Civic Life has partnered with the CityGate Dream Center on many initiatives to help the center achieve its mission of serving the local community.
Students from Elon University and the Kernodle Center for Civic Life volunteered at the CityGate Dream Center’s monthly diaper giveaway, providing diapers and feminine hygiene products to families in the county community. ‘Alamance on Thursday October 6th.
Approaching the Dream Center at 1423 N. Church St., a long line of cars formed even 30 minutes before the event. Students, community members and center staff received their roles and took a stand. Some volunteers repeatedly stocked and restocked areas where cars stopped to receive their orders. Others filled the orders, delivering the products to each car as they drove steadily for 90 minutes.
This is nothing new for the Dream Center. Since becoming an official partner of Diaper Bank of North Carolina in May 2020, the first Thursday of every month has looked alike.
“The Diaper Bank had five emergency locations in that first year, and we distributed the most diapers of them all,” said Lisa Edwards, president of CityGate Dream Center. “I think we distributed $129,000 worth of diapers that year.”
This trip to the Dream Center was part of the Kernodle Center’s Get on the Bus program. The program is a series of service events offered to all Elon students during the first eight weeks of the fall semester. Transportation is provided for students to participate in an afternoon of service. The diaper giveaway was the final Get on the Bus event of the year.
Hop on the Bus events are unique service opportunities for students to connect with community partners. The Dream Center is a partner that collaborates more regularly with the Kernodle Center.
“Currently, we have primarily worked with their weekly after-school program for middle and high school students,” said Kyle Anderson, associate director of the Kernodle Center. “Our volunteers provide mentorship, help with activities and build relationships with the extracurricular students at the Dream Center. Attendance has been quite strong since last spring. In addition, we collaborate with El Centro to recruit volunteers and we generally have 10 to 12 students per week.
Students have a direct impact as volunteers, a mainstay of the most successful nonprofit organizations. Their involvement comes with greater benefits as relationships are formed. They become positive influences in the community.
“It was really great to see students come out and help us with our after-school program and learn about the culture of being a positive person in other people’s lives,” Edwards said. “Then the kids get excited about school and realize, ‘Wow, I can go to college too.'”
The partnership between the Kernodle Center and the Dream Center began in 2020. “We got a group of students on our alternate break program and volunteered during Elon’s spring break,” Anderson said. “We have continued the partnership since then.”
Alternative Breaks are immersive service experiences designed to introduce students to new communities while working to address pressing national and global social issues. In March 2021, students volunteered at the centre’s food distribution and COVID-19 vaccination clinic. “Because of COVID, there were a lot of restrictions,” said Chandler McKelvey ’23, Senior Service Ambassador at Kernodle Center. “To participate in an alternate break, we were limited to Alamance County.”
McKelvey, a human studies major, started out as a service ambassador during her freshman year at Elon. Currently, she oversees many service projects and helped design the alternative break with the Dream Center.
“We wanted to focus on disparities in education. A teacher mentioned the Dream Center, which was not on our radar. By talking to Lisa and learning what the center means to the Latinx/Hispanic community, we wanted to help,” McKelvey said.
“Working at the vaccination clinic has really opened my eyes. I thought everyone wanted a vaccine, but a lot of people in the community were very worried and worried about its effects,” she added. “So talking with community members, educating them about the vaccine and supporting them in whatever they choose has had a lot of impact.”
Other Elon organizations have partnered with the Dream Center, including the Freedom Scholars. As the collaboration grows between the Dream Center and Elon, more and more students are witnessing the center’s positive effect.
“I’m so happy to see people from different communities caring about each other,” said Emilia Suarez, health promotion coordinator at the Dream Center. “Sometimes people come just because they need hours of service, but when they come here and see what’s going on, they say, ‘I want to come back next time.'”
Katherine Smith ’26, a second-time Dream Center volunteer during diaper distribution, shared a similar experience. “My introductory course in social services requires 40 hours of service,” she said. “I came last week and had so much fun I had to come back. It’s something great that I can keep doing.
The Dream Center will host its annual Hispanic Heritage Festival on October 15 from 2-8 p.m. Additionally, they have a community kitchen, monthly family nights, sports leagues, citizenship and computer class in partnership with Alamance Community College, and after-school tutoring. and youth programming. To learn more or how to get involved, visit the CityGate Dream Center website.
“There are many other great services offered by the Dream Center,” Anderson said. “They do an amazing job working with many other local organizations in Alamance County and continue to grow what they offer the local community.”