TTU answers President Obama’s call to serve

Posted by Lori Shull - Friday, October 07 2011
lshull@tntech.edu

thumb IS_ATTennessee Tech University is trying to change the face of service in the Upper Cumberland in answer to President Barack Obama’s recent call for more interfaith volunteer work on college campuses.

In collaboration with United Way and the TTU Business Media Center, TTU’s Service Center is developing a regional database of organizations that offer volunteer opportunities and resources for people who need help.

“United Way Executive Director Melinda James approached me about the need for a database for people to look for volunteer projects or people looking for services,” said Ada Haynes, sociology professor and faculty adviser to the TTU University Service Center. “It also provides a needs assessment because it tracks what services people are going online to look for. If they can’t find anything, we know there is a need for that service.”

The database, Help First, can be found at www.helpfirst.info.

Among thousands of universities and colleges, TTU was one of 250, and the only public university in the state, to be accepted to the initiative. Vanderbilt, Libscomb and Belmont universities and Rhodes College are also participating.

If the project goes well, TTU’s project may be featured at the White House in May as one of the initiative’s success stories.

“On a huge scale, this could be a model for other regions and other states,” Huddleston said. “It sounds like we’re being a bit ambitious, but we think it will be a good thing.”

Though the White House is asking for interfaith service, at TTU, the label is defined more broadly.

“We don’t just mean people of different faiths. We mean people of no faith, people with two faiths,” said Michelle Huddleston, TTU service coordinator. “This really means everyone. Especially with this being a public institution, we want this to be very inclusive.”

To raise awareness on campus, students, faculty and staff are wearing buttons that say, “What IS AT?” IS AT, or Interfaith Service at Tech, is the moniker designed from the White House initiative.

The project will have an official launch for interested students, faculty and staff at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, in the Tree House learning village conference room in New Hall North 282. A student representative from every campus organization has been asked to attend the meeting.

After that meeting, groups of students and other volunteers will go into the 14-county Upper Cumberland region to collect information about volunteer opportunities and aid resources.

Community members interested in volunteering can email Huddleston at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .