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Cutting A Check For The Durham Community

It seems Duke-Durham relations just may be alive and well after all.

After a semester's worth of fundraising combined with a little bit of "enterprising leadership," the Durham Giving Project house course awarded more than $10,000 to local community initiatives.

Three students - juniors Amanda Anderson and Sarah Hawkins and senior Melanie Oberman - developed the idea for their course last spring while taking Professor of Public Policy Tony Brown's Enterprising Leadership class, a part of the Hart Leadership program. "The whole course is built around moving an idea to a credible idea to a plan," Brown said. "They had the passion and ability to stay with an idea and make it into a reality."

This reality was a large sum of money raised through their "giving circle" that went straight into the hands of a wide range of Durham's philanthropic initiatives.

"The idea behind it is basically that a group of people could do much more than an individual donor," Anderson said. "We thought about this concept and thought it'd be a great way to get Duke students more involved in the community."

The students formed the class - which attracted 14 students - with the stipulation that each student raise $250 to be pooled together and donated to community projects.

"The biggest challenge was probably making sure that everyone was able to raise the $250," Oberman said. "Fundraising in general is very hard to do. And with the economy as bad as it is, it doesn't make things any easier for fundraising."

But learning to work through these problems was part of the intended value of the class. The instructors hoped to teach their classmates about the intricacies of the world of fund-raising, while at the same time helping them develop better relationships with their community.

"I think the class learned not only the very specific stuff such as fundraising and grant-making, which is really important, but they really learned an immeasurable amount about how Duke really does get involved in the Durham community, and how it is possible," Anderson said.

The students worked under the guidance of Sam Miglarese, assistant director of the office of community affairs and the coordinator of the Duke-Durham campaign, to develop innovative ways to raise money. The campaign provided the infrastructure for the student's campaign, but the students made all of the decisions about their fundraising and request for proposals on their own.

"It was pretty clear to me at the outset that this was a match made in heaven because their energy, their enthusiasm - which was part of their passion for this project - was also supported by their willingness to follow through," Miglarese said.

One student planned a billiards tournament, charging an entrance fee, but attracting people with gift certificates donated by the Green Room. Another group of students worked out a deal with Wellspring Groceries, obtaining a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Paul Newman products.

"I know it was really hard for a lot of students [to raise their share of the money]. $250 is definitely a lot for undergraduates," Hawkins said. "But by no means did people just call their parents and ask for a check."

Together the students raised $5,000. Through the auspices of John Burness, vice president for public affairs, the office of community affairs secured a matching donation from the University's President's Fund.

The recipients of the money were categorized under four social justice issues identified as some of Durham's most pressing - affordable housing, at-risk youth, health care and education. "We kind of did our own research and found recent newspaper articles and tried to find which issues really affected Durham," Hawkins said. "We also talked to local leaders and found out the issues local foundations dealt with."

The funds went toward such initiatives as All Children Count - which helps underprivileged students at E.K. Powe Elementary School afford shoes, gloves, hats and winter coats - and the Motheread national family literacy program. Hawkins was particularly pleased the students' efforts were successful enough to fund entirely certain programs.

Just as important as the course's goal to raise money for the community was its instructors' desires to increase interaction among Duke and its surroundings.

"This was a really great way for students to see how the 'bubble' is broken and to see how students and professors can get out into the community together," Anderson said.

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