Roanoke community group recruiting more college students for service projects

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) A Roanoke group is working to bring more college students looking for service projects to the area. It's called REACH, and their work is making a difference.

The service is a two-way street. It benefits the people and the organizations, but it also benefits the people doing the volunteering.

Just like tye-dye T-shirts volunteers made Sunday morning, diversity is what makes the Roanoke Valley great. Squirts of color go deep in the cracks, and these students are finding people who for one reason or another, have fallen through them.

"I really enjoy doing it because it gives me a chance to kind of get out of the JMU bubble and to serve," James Madison University Junior Andrea Garcia said.

A half-dozen students from James Madison University were in the Roanoke Valley on an alternative weekend break. Service is the name of the game at places like the food bank, which really appreciates the help.

"I think we don't see the full impact we have sometimes but when you see their smiles light up or people thank us time and time again it feels really awesome," Garcia said.

REACH in Roanoke pairs youth and young-adult volunteers with people and organizations in need. Over the next five months, it's making a concentrated effort to bring more of them in.

"Absolutely it's been a success, any time we can get people out into the community I would definitely call that a success," REACH Community Outreach Coordinator Ryan Driscoll said. "What we've been doing for the past 6 years we just work with people during the summer, but there's obviously a lot more to the year than just the summer time so we wanted to find out how we could bring people in during our off season."

These Duke Dogs made a special stop delivering gifts to a fellow Duke Dog and her family - a young mom enrolled in JMU online, and this made the trip worth it.

"I wanted to make an impact on the community and I hope to take that back to JMU and serve in the community there as well," Garcia said.

Reach is still looking for other groups to fill out its schedule. It can help volunteers find places to stay and projects to work on. You can find out more here.

"I see this as a way to allow people to serve people in the Roanoke community but also learn how they can go back in their own community and try to start something like this or at least figure out where they can do the types of service that we do here," Driscoll said.