Freshmen Write Cards for Deke Day
Freshmen and transfer students participated in the annual Deke Day celebration last month to kick off the fall semester.
Since 2003, Lee University's Leonard Center has hosted Deke Day during the semester's opening weekend, an opportunity for incoming students to serve at nursing homes and retirement communities. This year, due to COVID-19, students and faculty were unable to enter these facilities.
"Because we believe Deke Day matters, we wanted to do something to continue the experience," said Dr. William Lamb, Leonard Center director. "After a bit of brainstorming, we decided to go with handwritten cards."
Over 760 new students, along with their peer leaders and professors, met in small groups across campus and wrote letters to Lee's partner assisted-living facilities. They were separated according to their Gateway class, a course designed to help acclimate new students to life at Lee. Students wrote 7,947 cards over the course of the day, which were hand delivered, along with a cupcake, to activity directors in 49 nursing facilities across seven different counties. The cards were intended to remind residents that they had not been forgotten during the pandemic, and according to Lamb, it was a huge success.
"It was a success in two specific ways. First, it reminded the residents and staff at these elderly care facilities that they matter to us, and it reminded the college students of the value of the handwritten card. It's kind of a lost, forgotten art, but it is meaningful. There is value in taking a pen in your hand and writing out words that will last for many years. These letters provided a long-term experience that can be read over and over again."
It took four days and over 600 miles for Lamb and Special Projects Assistant Chase Eaves to deliver the cards to each of the facilities. Among the many responses from staff and residents, Helen Whitener of Life Care Center, Copper Basin, wrote a thank you letter to the Lee students and staff expressing appreciation for their kindness. "It was very uplifting and encouraging to see how much people care," she wrote.
Deke Day is the students' first introduction to service-learning at Lee University. "Deke" is derived from diakoneo, a Greek word in the Bible meaning "to serve." During a normal semester, hundreds of freshmen students, along with their peer leaders and professors, load onto buses and vans bound for elderly care facilities and retirement communities. In each facility, students interact with residents and, in the process, come to gain a better understanding of the service-learning program and to engage with classmates in a meaningful way.
For more information about Deke Day, visit leeuniversity.edu/service-learning/student-requirements.aspx.
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