Madison House organization celebrates 40th anniversary
University volunteer organization remembers founding in 1969, reflects on growth, contribution to Charlottesville community life during four decades
Madison House, the University's largest student volunteer center, will host a reception today marking its 40th anniversary.
In the organization's 40 years on Grounds, more than 20,000 individuals have volunteered, giving an estimated 3 million hours of community service to the Charlottesville and Albemarle County communities.
During the fall of 1969, when Hurricane Camille hit Nelson County, Va., a group of University students decided to provide much needed support to the county's residents. Their small volunteer initiative encouraged them to make community service a more consistent part of their lives and a greater part of student life at the University. The students decided to found Madison House during the 1969-70 school year with four original programs, Interim Executive Director Elizabeth Bass said.
Today, the organization houses 19 different programs that work to support a variety of causes and help senior citizens, children, animals and the homeless.
"Students can find whatever they are looking for in Madison House," Bass said. "It doesn't have to be the same thing to every person. 40 years of history gives students this opportunity."
Last academic year, Madison House worked with 3,500 volunteers who served on a weekly basis for some portion of the year, providing a total of more than 100,000 hours of volunteer work, Bass said.
"Being able to address community needs and student interests is how Madison House has grown," she said.
Over the years, Madison House has garnered both local and national attention. In 1990, it was named one of the "Points of Light" by the Office of National Service at the White House, an award given to service organizations meeting critical need in their communities, Bass said. In the past five years, the organization has been named, along with four other University programs, as part of the Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, which recognizes outstanding volunteer work in colleges and universities.
And, like many other organizations at the University, it prides itself on being a mostly student-run organization.
"Ever since the founding days, we have always consistently had student leadership as one of the main components," Bass said.
Last year there were 205 program directors, all students. Only five professional staff members work at Madison House, she noted.
Many students said they find the time spent working with Madison House to be rewarding, claiming that the volunteer hours enhance their overall University experiences.
"Working with Madison House teaches service learning and a commitment to service not just while we're students, but throughout the rest of our lives," said Marnie Coons, student co-chair of the board of directors for Madison House. "I have gained so much more from working at Madison House than I think I could possibly give."
Today's reception will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. in Mad Bowl, weather permitting.