Mary Baldwin University sold its apple orchard decades ago, but, one day a year, apples again claim the spotlight. Apple pie, apple and almond rice, and apple crepes were baked at Hunt Dining Hall, and up the hill students and members of the public gathered for a carnival to celebrate Apple Day.
Many things about the tradition have changed since students in the early 1940s walked a few miles to the college’s orchard to collect close to 1,000 bushels of apples — most of which were donated to charitable groups in the area. Efforts by today’s students, faculty, and staff to return this event to a concentrated effort of community service have quietly gained momentum during the last few years.
This year, students and faculty teamed up on several projects to renew the practice of giving back on Apple Day.
“It all worked out to use today to kick off our new commitment to community service that we want to promote all year,” said senior Victoria TenBroeck, president of the Student Government Association. TenBroeck and a handful of student government leaders planted a crabapple tree near the lower athletic field on campus. Nestled among several more mature, fruit-bearing trees, the sapling creates a miniature orchard, reinforcing the importance of tradition at Mary Baldwin for students like Junnell Sample ‘05.
Sample said the alumnae/i she talked with as part of a recent Phonathon with the college’s Spencer Society were happy to learn that students are reintroducing an element of community service into the festivities of Apple Day, which they hold as a fond memory.
“It’s important as a student in this city to remember that there are other people living all around us that need us,” added fellow tree-planter Kamala Payne ’05. “It’s easy to become secluded on campus, but it’s rewarding to reach out.”
TenBroeck and all members of the SGA executive committee signed a pledge to complete four hours of community service each month. They have invited all members of the Mary Baldwin community to join them, offering a T-shirt that reads “Uniting Mary Baldwin University through community service” as an incentive. TenBroeck also used participation in the service project to highlight the college’s new 10-year strategic plan, Composing Our Future. Community service, internships, and field projects are some of the 10 steps that lead to personal transformation as part of the Mary Baldwin University Advantage.
Students and professors also pitched in at the Red Cross offices in Staunton, organizing supplies from the recent merger of two local chapters. Freshman Taylor Lane moved and labeled boxes, continuing the habit of community service she practiced at high school in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
The day off from classes provided the perfect opportunity for Betsy Shortt ’08 to volunteer at the Valley Mission, a shelter for the homeless in Staunton. Shortt regularly offers her time at the mission, and she added to the Apple Day effort by asking her friends to donate their time instead of giving her gifts for her upcoming 18th birthday.
Many Mary Baldwin students recognize the value of looking beyond themselves and will respond to the college’s call to service, predicted Shortt’s friend Ashley Mitchell.
Back on campus, sophomore class president Brittany Bledsoe agreed. She enjoyed hearing stories of bygone Apple Days from graduates from the 1950s and 1980s during a social event the previous day. In addition to organizing Apple Day activities, sophomore class officers signed the community service pledge and encouraged others to do so during a sign-up at brunch.
We can have our fun, but there is time to give back, too,” Bledsoe said.