Philanthropy at Jewell: An Overview

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Since the founding of William Jewell College in 1849, serving others has been at the heart of the Jewell community. The College was founded by Baptists who dreamed of creating future leaders who would go on to improve society. Today, philanthropy remains a core value as students work to continue to honor the College’s history of helping others through curricular and co-curricular ventures.

We have a very intentional ethic of service to others that is a part of the ethos of our campus,” said Dr. Jeff Buscher, college chaplain and service coordinator.

Last year alone, Jewell students completed 60,814 hours of service. With over 800 students, that means an average of 75 hours of community service completed per person. While this number is down from the 71,958 hours of service in the 2016-2017 school year, the philanthropic passion at Jewell is staggering.

The majority of these service hours are accrued through the efforts of co-curricular organizations – such as Greek Life and the Nonprofit Leadership Association (NLA) – and the College’s commitment to service learning.

While the college itself cannot officially sponsor any specific charities, many organizations around campus do. Among the most active in philanthropy are members of Greek Life. Each fraternity and sorority plans events throughout the year to raise awareness and monetary support for causes they are passionate about. The causes supported include Harvesters Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House, Bikers Against Child Abuse, and breast cancer research and education.

Around 40 percent of Jewell students are involved in Greek Life, guaranteeing that portion of the student body to be engaged in philanthropy in some way. On any given day, there is likely to be at least one fraternity or sorority raising money in the Yates-Gill College Union or out in the community cleaning up highways.

NLA is also responsible for a large portion of the service hours recorded. The club, aligned with the nonprofit leadership studies major, is involved in numerous service projects across campus and beyond – including the American Red Cross Club and the Skip-a-Meal program where students can opt to donate one meal on their meal plan per week to food pantries across the city.

The club says they are “committed to making a significant difference in the lives of community members.”

Much of the service hours counted can also be attributed to the Pryor Leadership Program. As part of their Pryor Legacy Project, Pryor Fellows complete a project they are passionate about that benefits the community. Past legacy projects include building tiny houses for the homeless and the creation of the Tucker Leadership Lab.

Philanthropy at Jewell also extends past the school year. Every January and May since 2005, undergraduates, as well as staff and alumni, travel to Honduras as parts of the Village Partners Program. They grant micro-loans for members of the local community to invest in the local economy. Groups also raise money to improve water quality and infrastructure, build community gardens and provide access to medical and dental care.

William Jewell College students on a service trip to Honduras in 2017.

The Village Partners program has expanded in recent years. In 2017, two students traveled to Thailand to create on solar energy workshop. Nursing students have also gone to Zambia to provide medical care to underserved communities.

“[Service learning experiences] expand students’ world view and makes them better global citizens,” Buscher said.

A spirit of service is also ingrained in Jewell traditions. Since the 1980s, students have participated in the annual Serve and Celebrate the weekend before homecoming week. This year, 150 undergraduates volunteered for more than a dozen charities across the city.  

The College also hosts the annual Jewell Day of Service in the spring to continue with the spirit of giving into the second semester. The event, which started in 2010, is yet another opportunity to Jewell students to go out in the community and serve others.

At both Serve and Celebrate and Jewell Day of Service, participants often do maintenance work the charities do not have the time to do, such as repainting or cleaning. This allows the charities to focus on keeping up the great work they do.

“It is assumed that being a contributing, thoughtful member of society implies that you will roll up your sleeves and volunteer or contribute in some way to make your community a better place,” says Buscher.

Over the past few years, students have recorded volunteer hours at almost 15 organizations – including Habitat Restore, Hillcrest Hope apartments, Immaculata Manor, Jewish vocational services and Ernest Shepherd Youth Center.

An emphasis of philanthropy is a cornerstone of the Jewell community and is exhibited twice a year at the biannual Service Learning Fair, a campus-wide event at which students from all disciplines may volunteer to serve in the Greater Kansas City area.

Pictures courtesy of Kristen Agar and Jeff Buscher

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