The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

Tayler Morris, Grad Service Assistant, North Dakota State University

January 26, 2018

5:30 AM: My alarm goes off. Today is MLK Day of Service. The undergraduate volunteer coordinators I supervise have spent several weeks preparing for this event. We are sending over 200 students to various nonprofits throughout the Fargo-Moorhead community.

7:00 AM: I’m standing inside the doors of the Memorial Union trying to warm my frozen nose and toes as I wait for the inner doors to open. It only takes a few minutes to get from my car to the building, but even a few minutes in the negative temperatures are miserable, especially when the harsh wind cuts across campus making a -7 degree day feel like a -30 degree day.  

8:30 AM: The nearly empty Memorial Union starts to fill with students preparing to leave for the morning volunteer shift at various nonprofits. My team and I are situated behind tables, waiting with waivers and location assignments. The students begin to form lines, and the real work begins. One of the nonprofits notified us early this morning that they would be unable to take volunteers today because of the weather conditions. The volunteers assigned to this nonprofit are asked to wait until we have a better idea of open spaces at other nonprofits. Though students are placed at certain nonprofits based on their access to transportation, we run into some issues with students who don’t have a means to travel to their assigned locations. In spite of these hiccups, we are a well-oiled machine, and by 9:00 AM most of the students have departed and are on their way to volunteer for the morning.

9:15 AM: The waiting game begins. We will spend the day on campus in case volunteers or nonprofits encounter any roadblocks. Like with any event, the occasional mishap is bound to occur. Students are unwittingly sent to nonprofits that closed because of the weather, others attempt the trek to their assigned location, but abandon the attempt when the roads prove too slick, others yet wrongly assume their assigned nonprofit closed because of the weather. Though we were unable to anticipate the types of issues we would encounter, we manage to shuffle students around and find placements for all of our volunteers.

12:30 PM: The process repeats; it’s time to check volunteers in for the afternoon shift. There are fewer volunteers in the afternoon, so we lack the hecticness from the morning. By 1:00 PM the steady stream of people has diminished and the Memorial Union returns to its near empty state.

Extreme weather is something we deal with frequently as a University located in North Dakota. Though we claim our tolerance to the bitter cold of northern winters is higher than that of our southern neighbors, cold temperatures and snowy conditions certainly deter students from engaging in activities that would be more tenable in milder conditions. However, we still sent 234 students to serve the Fargo-Moorhead community on Monday January 15, 2018. Snow, ice, wind and road cancelations did not prevent these students from giving back to the community they call home.

While the student volunteers greatly contributed to the success of MLK Day of Service, the event would not have been possible without the volunteer coordinators. They worked tirelessly to plan and prepare for the event. In fact, the Friday before the event they spent several hours—after business hours—navigating nonprofit cancellations and placing volunteers. Though not every team member is responsible for the organization and planning of the event, every team member contributes and helps to ensure that the event runs as smoothly as possible on the day of the event and the days leading up to it. The teamwork, dedication, and strong work ethic prevalent in all of my team members is what makes events like MLK Day of Service successful at North Dakota State University—even in subzero temperatures. 

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