Service Cluster Board Promotes Flex Fund For Volunteer Week

By Sarah Asch

The Service Cluster Board (SCB) is a collective made up of 17 student service organizations on campus. The board includes Kristina Frye ’17 and Jin Son ’18, the two student coordinators, and advisor Ashley Laux from the Center for Community Engagement. The SCB is currently celebrating Volunteer Week, and encourages students to go into the local community and participate in volunteer projects.

According to Frye, the SCB helps manage volunteer organizations on campus. She said, “The Service Cluster Board supports individual service organizations by helping them meet their missions and responsibly use their funds. The SCB oversees the budgets of the individual service organizations, hosts monthly leadership trainings and manages the Flex Fund.”

The SCB sets aside the Flex Fund in their budget to promote service projects in the Middlebury community.

“Projects range from one-time events to programs that run over the course of a few weeks,” Frye said. “In the past, Flex Fund money has been awarded to groups hosting community suppers, volunteering at Wild Roots Farm and organizing arts and crafts sessions at Addison Central Teens.” The Student Government Association funds the SBC and the Flex Fund.

The Flex Fund helps support service projects orchestrated by students, including community suppers. Arturo Simental ’20 participated a community supper with his Posse last January and said that he enjoyed the experience of working with the SBC and helping with the dinner.

“We prepared weeks before by finalizing our menu, grocery shopping and baking sweet desserts. On the day of the supper we set the tables before cooking and serving,” Simental said.

Simertal says he looks forward to participating in future community suppers. “I’d recommend the Flex Fund to anyone looking for community engagement possibilities. Students interested in volunteering shouldn’t be turned away because of financial costs,” he said.

Katie Merrick ‘17 put on a community super with the Cross Country Team. “I’m one of the co-captains of the Middlebury Cross Country Team, and every season we try to do a Community Supper,” she said. “This year, I was the one to apply for the funding for this Community Supper through the Flex Fund. For anyone looking to put on a Community Supper—they have the process down pat, so I would highly encourage it.”

Merrick believes it is valuable for students to engage with the wider community. “It’s very important for Midd students to connect with town locals by volunteering,” she said. “Moreover, engaging with community members showed us the tremendous diversity in Vermont experiences and a better understanding of Addison County.”

Mikayla Hyman ’20 has multiple experiences working with the Flex Fund. She applied to fund an arts and crafts class at the local Addison County teen center. She also used the fund to create MiddROC, a more permanent program to match refugee and immigrant students with mentors. Hyman agrees that volunteering is important.

“Volunteer work is essential to a healthy, functioning society,” Hyman said. “Volunteering facilitates empathetic connections between isolated groups and increases understanding between all individuals involved. Through these emotional and intellectual bonds, both individuals and communities can grow and develop.”

Hyman found it very easy to apply for funding.  “The process for applying for funding was incredibly accessible and very reasonable. The application was easy to find and I thought the directions were clear. All of the questions on the application were incredibly pertinent, and some even helped me to develop a more comprehensive program,” she said. “I would definitely recommend that others apply for funding through the Flex Fund. It’s a great resource on campus that allows individuals to make a meaningful impact on the community through direct service. Its flexible nature encourages creativity and allows students to engage in activities that they genuinely enjoy. Also the committee granted me funding incredibly quickly.”

According to Frye, interested applicants need only fill out a short application and explain their project and budget. The Flex Fund Review Committee then provides feedback and determines whether the project falls under the guidelines of direct sevice. The commitee tries to respond to applicants within two weeks.

Frye also recommended students explore all available opportunities through the CCE. “If there is any advice we could give, it’s that any student that is even remotely interested should stop by the Center for Community Engagement and discuss their ideas with us or any other CCE staff member. The CCE staff is incredibly welcoming and will likely be able to find a way to support your service project even if it doesn’t fall within the guidelines of the Flex Fund.”

Flex Fund applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, and any students, ad-hoc student groups or official student organizations interested in applying can reach out to the SBC at [email protected] with questions. Students are also welcome to apply at any time over the course of the academic year at go/flexfund.