Mercer’s Local Engagement Against Poverty (LEAP) group held its first Service Day of the semester on Saturday, Sept. 8. LEAP is a service group led by Mercer students that deals with the issues of those living in poverty in Macon’s community. On Service Days, members of LEAP work on various projects such as landscaping and painting to help Macon’s community.
Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Macon work with LEAP in deciding which projects they work on. On their first Service Day, three of LEAP’s projects were with Rebuilding Macon.
Service Days usually involve volunteers from LEAP working on a couple of projects. Members of LEAP divide into groups on Service Days, and each group goes to work on a specific project.
Usually, LEAP has two to three groups depending on the number of volunteers signed up for the day. However, due to the large number of volunteers who signed up for the first day, LEAP had four groups of volunteers working at different sites.
Rebecca Hutcheson, a member of LEAP’s board of directors, led one such group. Her group worked on painting the house of a local resident in Macon. Hutcheson mentioned that some projects require multiple Service Days to complete, depending on the amount of work they require.
Hutcheson also mentioned that their work ranges from painting houses, to landscaping, and even something as simple as cleaning up a yard.
Other organizations also work with LEAP to help the community. One example given was LEAP’s work with a local church called Strong Tower, which runs a children’s program on Saturdays. Volunteers from LEAP played with the children in the morning, gave them lunch, and tutored them.
Mercer students from every grade level make the bulk of LEAP’s volunteers. Volunteers can be members of other student organizations such as fraternity’s that choose to sign up for Service Days. Members from other student organizations tend to work together on projects when they sign up for Service Days.
In the past, LEAP has organized events to raise awareness about poverty. One such event was the LEAP Conference, held in the spring of 2011.
Mercer Service Scholars organized the LEAP Conference as a way to bring awareness to Mercer students of the problems surrounding those who live below the poverty line.
The conference included a poverty simulation, a staged production of the book “Nickeled and Dimed: Not Getting By in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich which details the life of someone living on minimum wage, and a speech by Dr. David Gushee, Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer. According to LEAP’s Director of Marketing, Bailee Kitchens, the Conference marked when LEAP’s activities really started to pick up.
A group of five directors and one head director led LEAP in its projects. Groups such as Mercer Service Scholars, Quadworks, the Student Government Association, Division of Student Affairs, and other groups act as sponsors or help assist LEAP.
Any student wishing to find more information on when LEAP’s upcoming Service Days are scheduled and how they can sign up should look up LEAP on Mercer’s homepage, or go to LEAP’s page on Facebook.