Tradition is a big deal with the Army ROTC unit at the University of Georgia. So when tradition is broken, it's an even bigger deal. Such is the case this holiday season. Instead of having the cadre's annual holiday party, the cadets opted for a more selfless event centered on the spirit of giving: an afternoon of service.
"Every year we have a holiday party where our cadets use their Cadet Fund money to have a slice of pizza and a soda and socialize for an hour or so with each other," said Sgt. Scott Farrell, an adjunct professor who teaches sophomore cadets. "We got to thinking that this is crazy. The amount of money we're spending on this we could use to be doing something positive."
"We presented the idea of a service project to the senior cadets, and they took this idea and ran with it," said Lt. Col. Kurt Felpel, commander of the unit.
"They went out into the community and offered their time and talents to serve others during their normal lab hour and when they would have had their holiday party," Farrell added.
The result was an impactful day of service to the community for the Boys and Girls Club of Athens, two Habitat for Humanity ReStore facilities and two day cares. The cadets used their party funds to purchase their cleaning supplies. Then they split up into five teams of 10 to 20 cadets for each location to provide assistance for anything that the organizations needed in about a two-hour time frame.
"Our members had the unique opportunity to see the UGA Army ROTC cadets give back today. They shared their time and service with us, and we are so grateful to them. We thank them for serving our country and community," said Derrick Floyd, director of operations of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Athens, where the team cleaned windows and bathrooms, washed vans and buses, dusted in hard-to-reach places and swept and mopped floors.
Two teams of about 10 cadets each moved furniture, appliances, windows and other household fixtures to organize both of the Habitat for Humanity ReStores. The Habitat thrift stores take in new and used home furnishings that would otherwise be thrown away and sell them to help fund the construction of Habitat for Humanity houses in the Athens area. Spencer Frye, state representative and executive director of Athens Habitat for Humanity who also oversees the thrift stores, was on hand at the Barber Street store when the cadets arrived.
"We are so thankful for the service of these cadets," Frye said. "They have made such fast work here in organizing our store. I don't remember when it looked so good."
In breaking an old tradition, it seems UGA's Army ROTC unit has made a new tradition.
"This is another example of how our awesome cadets can take an idea and then plan it and run it through to execution," Felpel said. We definitely plan on making this an annual event."
UGA's Army ROTC is a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Instruction.