In 2016, as a freshman at Furman University, Terryl Cronic said she was shy and directionless – but that was why she chose Furman, a small university of only about 2,800 students in Greenville.
“I am a firm believer in small universities. I love that I have had the ability to engage in a wide variety of opportunities,” she said.
And for Cronic, that is exactly the kind of experience she has had at Furman as she now enters her senior year.
The “wide variety of opportunities” has come from her involvement with the Heller Service Corps, a collegiate educational service group that includes about 1,800 Furman students. Volunteer opportunities are available to students in areas ranging from animal care and sustainability to child care and working with special needs adults.
“I will leave Furman at the end of this year a confident leader who understands that any team, family or community is strengthened by the sacrifices they are willing to make for others,” said Cronic, who also will be the Heller Service Corps student director this year.
For 54 years, Heller Service Corps has given back to the local community through the involvement of Furman students who have in turn affected the lives of countless people.
“The one thing that makes Heller Service Corps successful is that it is not required,” said Nancy Cooper, the program’s coordinator for volunteer services. “The students volunteer in agencies where they have an interest and they know that they can make a difference.”
Each year, the Heller Service Corps participates in the Activities Fair, where tables are set up by various organizations aimed at teaching students about the diverse extracurricular opportunities available at the school.
“We see students at our table who know exactly what type of service they want to participate in, like helping animals, and we see others who want to sample a little of everything that we do,” Cooper said.
She explained students indicate which areas of involvement they are interested in at the Activities Fair and that the following week an agency director will be in touch with them concerning volunteer opportunities.
“Some are monthly and some are weekly,” Cooper said. “It is up to them on how much volunteering they can and want to do with us.”
She said that she loves it when she sees students flourish in their specific area of interest and sometimes even change their major.
“Heller Service Corps can help narrow down a career choice for these students,” Cooper said.
Heller Service Corps holds four major events per year. For example, each October, they hold a Fall Festival for trick or treat in the dorms for low-income children.
“There’s a campus carnival and the students have so much fun,” Cooper explained, pointing out that the organization also sets up five holiday giving trees around campus. “Some people donate toys and some donate money. We give the toys to low-income families, and, with the money that is donated, we buy more toys.”
Another event is a Valentine’s Day dance for exceptional adults.
“About 200 Furman students participate, and about 150 exceptional adults are invited,” Cooper explained. “That is probably one of the most fun days of the school year in my opinion.”
And, the PalaTHON is a dance marathon where Furman students dance to raise money for Prisma Health Children’s Hospital.
“This past year we raised $41,000,” Cooper said proudly.
Since 1965, the Heller Service Corps motto has been, “A hand up; never a hand out.”
Cronic concluded, “Working alongside selfless individuals builds a leader better than any course or lecture. I am grateful to have been taken into this family. I know this team will continue to open its arms every day to embrace more students like me.”
For more information on Heller Service Corps, visit www.hellerservicecorps.org or call 864-294-2900.
By Theresa Stratford