Lees McRae day of service

Freshman Wylie Kendall (hat), works alongside Lees-McRae President Lee King (jeans and blue mask) as other volunteers look on.

BANNER ELK — Lees-McRae students, faculty and staff rolled up their sleeves and gave back to the community during the Mountain Day of Service on Oct. 13.

Mountain Day of Service is one of the earliest Lees-McRae traditions, dating back to when founder and Banner Elk Presbyterian minister the Rev. Edgar Tufts established a day as a reminder to retreat into the great outdoors and celebrate the natural wonders of the region.

During Mountain Day of Service fall 2021, 450 volunteers completed projects at 31 local organizations across Avery and Watauga counties.

President Lee King addressed the volunteers on Nebel Green before the day began, calling Mountain Day of Service one of his favorite days of the year.

“It’s an opportunity where the entire campus community all comes out together and works together,” King said. “Many of you will be working outside. Enjoy this beautiful fall weather and the colors around you. Most importantly, enjoy the day of service. You’re living our motto — In the Mountains, Of the Mountains, For the Mountains.”

Some volunteers painted while others repaired fences and cleaned up outdoor areas. One group picked up litter on the side of the road in Banner Elk. King himself helped at the Western Youth Network in Boone.

Site leaders kept their groups on track. Kendra Carson, adjunct biology instructor and site leader for the group that volunteered at Valle Crucis Community Park, said volunteering allowed her to strengthen the community and get to know students better.

“Working with others toward a unified and honorable purpose is one of the greatest joys in life,” Carson said. “I am grateful to Lees-McRae for the opportunity. Teamwork makes the dream work.”

Student volunteer Brooks Jackson ’23 said Mountain Day of Service is about paying the community back.

“I volunteer on Mountain Day to give back to the community that graciously welcomed me,” Jackson said. “It also gives me a chance to meet and interact with more people in our community.”

Students like Cooper Barnwell ’25 participated in their first Mountain Day of Service. Barnwell, an Eagle Scout, has completed service projects before, but none quite like this.

“It brings me joy to perform service for the community again and to see the passion for supporting the local Avery and Watauga communities,” Barnwell said. “Being able to work for the community allows us all not only to uphold the name of Lees-McRae but to also support and truly form a bond with the community we are being integrated into.”

After working, volunteers enjoyed dinner in Swank Park, followed by a live performance on Nebel Green by North Carolina-based folk rock band Time Sawyer.

The next Mountain Day of Service is set for Spring 2022.

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