Middle Georgia State Student Groups Step Up to Help Homeless

Author: Sheron Smith
Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2019 12:00 AM
Categories: School of Business | Pressroom | Students | Faculty/Staff

Macon, GA

L-R are Liz Riley, Rojean Sanders, and Michael Dyess, who are among those who will represent MGA in the Greater Macon Sleepout. Donate to MGA - SASS, MGA - Torch Society, MGA - Eastman CAB, or Liz Riley at www.MaconSleepout.com. Photo by Hannah Hartman.

For several years running, Middle Georgia State University faculty member Liz Riley has been among the campers at the Greater Macon Sleepout, an annual event to raise money to help homeless members of the community.

Riley, an associate professor in the School of Business, talks openly about losing a brother to alcoholism and homelessness, so the fundraiser is close to her heart. This year, she wondered if any student organizations might like to participate. The Student Affairs office helped put out the word, but Riley kept her expectations low.

“I hoped maybe one student group might be interested, but the sleepout is a little different from other service opportunities,” she said. “It’s sleeping outdoors overnight, possibly in the cold. That’s nothing compared to what many homeless people experience every day, but still …”

To her pleasant surprise, three Middle Georgia State (MGA) student organizations stepped up. Come sundown on Thursday, February 28, a total of about 15 University students who are members of the groups will be sleeping under the stars to help raise money for Daybreak, a downtown Macon center that provides a variety of services to the homeless.

“I’ve been floored by the response,” Riley said.

The three MGA groups sending teams are the President’s Torch Society, with nursing major Rojean Sanders of Macon serving as the student leader; SASS (Students Attaining Self Success), with biology major Tierra Murphy of Macon serving as student leader; and the Eastman Campus Student Activities Board, with flight major Michael Dyess of Savannah serving as student leader.

“I think it will be a great opportunity to serve and learn about how and why people end up homeless,” said Sanders, who said she knows MGA students who have no permanent place to live. “Maybe we can get some ideas of what more we can do at Middle Georgia State to help students facing that situation.”

According to the Daybreak website, the center provides hot morning meals, a safe place to relax during the day, and access to resources to help individuals move from homelessness “to a life of hope and dignity.” Resources include access to showers, telephones, computers, laundry services, a medical clinic, and case managers.

The Greater Macon Sleepout is Daybreak’s signature fundraiser, designed to be a symbolic show of solidarity with the homeless. Participants bring their own tents and sleeping bags and camp for the night in an area near the Daybreak Center, which is adjacent to Central City Park. Riley said Boy Scout troops are on hand to build fire pits and help people put up their tents. Teams solicit donations, primarily online.

Riley said participants are people from all walks of life. The sleepout is a bonding experience for campers who sit around the fire pits and talk, play cards, or sing and listen to music. Daybreak feeds participants a simple supper of soup and bread and someone will talk briefly about the issue of homelessness. The musician Chuck Leavell, whose storied career includes time with the Allman Brothers Band, is a strong Daybreak supporter and usually attends the fundraiser. Participants are served breakfast the next morning.

Dyess is an experienced camper and will bring his own tent. He said a member of his team is bringing a tent large enough for about eight people.

“A lot of people are homeless through no fault of their own,” he said. “This will be a good way to bring attention to a worthy cause.”

The sleepout will be Murphy’s first experience with camping. She said MGA’s Student Affairs office is helping locate tents for her team to use.

MGA’s representation in the Greater Macon Sleepout is another step in the University’s efforts to expand the culture of service learning among students. In December 2018, the Student Affairs office sponsored the first annual “Day of Service,” which saw more than 150 students, faculty, and staff volunteer at charitable and other non-profit organizations in the five communities where MGA has campuses.

“Service is a vital part of a university education,” Riley said. “I’m honored and grateful that so many Middle Georgia State students want to take part in a service activity that is especially meaningful to me.”