The latest installment of the twice-annual Boro Browse brought 107 exhibitors to the Georgia Southern University campus last Tuesday. Milling among tables outside and inside the Russell Union, students learned about places to shop, eat and worship and find services, jobs and opportunities to volunteer.
It was the first of two events this past week, sponsored by different GSU offices, aimed at making students better aware of what Statesboro and its businesses have to offer. Boro Browse, put on by the Office of Student Activities, brings a sampling of the town to campus. Step into Statesboro, organized by the Office of Leadership and Community Engagement, took the opposite tactic, busing students into the heart of Statesboro on Saturday for tours, talks and the Mainstreet Farmers Market.
"A lot of these kids just don't know where we are," said Suzy Fordham of Fordham's Farmhouse, giving one reason why locally owned, independent businesses participate in Boro Browse.
Fordham's is well known to locals for its homestyle food and cafeteria-style service. But it's a little beyond the bypass on U.S. Highway 80 East, and students who leave campus only to seek out nationally advertised stores and restaurants can remain unaware of businesses off that well-beaten track.
"Most of the kids don't come out as far as we're located. They don't cross the bypass, most of them," Fordham said. "So if we can get our name out, get the menu out, get some healthy cooking in 'em, it's a win-win-win situation."
She also had job applications handy and said the restaurant will potentially employ some students from the event.
Jobs and volunteering
The Clubhouse, represented by its events and public relations director, Shellie Pittman, and shift manager Christal Riley, sought to make students aware of job opportunities, as well as its College Night Pass for activities including laser tag and bowling.
"A lot of our base of the employees here are students at Georgia Southern," Pittman said. "We certainly encourage them to come out and turn in their resumes so they can potentially learn a lot and take the skills that they learn with them in life."
Of the Clubhouse's 75 or so employees, well over half are GSU students, she said.
Riley is an example. After working about a year at the Clubhouse while a student, she graduated in May and is now working full-time in a management position.
The GSU Office of Student Activities encouraged businesses to bring job applications, but no contracts were to be signed at the expo. No selling is allowed at the Boro Browse, either. Free samples and coupons are encouraged, however.
Last Tuesday's 107 exhibitors included campus offices and organizations as well business and community organizations, noted Kendra Ritter, an activities coordinator with the Office of Student Activities. Staffing a table to assist exhibitors, she estimated that about 80 were businesses.
"We actually do this so students have the opportunity to see what Statesboro has to offer," Ritter said. "A lot of students move here from out of town, and they're not sure where to get their hair done or a dentist, or even local food places that appeal to them."
Dr. Kenneth Kitching of Kitching Chiropractic handed out his memorably "bent" writing pens as well as his business cards. Larry "True Story the Barber" Joseph, who works at Kingdom Cuts, told students about his skills and styles. Banks and apartment complexes were also represented.
Several churches had tables and tents. One young Mormon missionary played a ukulele, while others greeted students.
The GSU Student Employment Center was one of the university offices with tables inside the Russell Union. About 2,500 students have jobs on campus, said Brad Mair, human resources coordinator at the center.
But most students who attend Boro Browse are doing more shopping than job hunting, said Asya Fields, 20, a junior from McDonough.
"I think they look for free samples and, you know, interesting vendors that kind of appeal to our needs," she said.
Students could also find opportunities to volunteer. The Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department calls on more than 1,000 volunteers each year, and probably 500 are GSU students, said Kimberly Sharpe, the department's event supervisor.
"We're part of the service learning program," Sharpe noted. "We have a community liaison who works with us through Georgia Southern."
The department's staff members also invited students to the last two weekends of the Splash in the Boro summer season. The water park closes after Labor Day.
Meanwhile, the Alzheimer's Association was signing up volunteers for its Walk to End Alzheimer's, to be held Oct. 10 at Bulloch Academy.
Step into Statesboro
Saturday's event, Step into Statesboro, did not aim at introducing students to businesses so much as at showing student leaders what Statesboro has to offer as a community.
Danyel Addes, civic and community engagement coordinator in the Office of Leadership and Community Engagement, led planning for the event. Wendy Denton, the assistant director for service learning, was available Monday for a follow-up interview.
More than 300 students participated, taking either the 8 a.m. tour or the 9 a.m. tour, Denton said. Running double routes, five buses provided by the Bulloch County Schools carried them from the Russell Union to downtown Statesboro and other destinations.
"These are student leaders who are involved in service work in the community, and so we wanted them to understand the communities here in Statesboro that they are service, the businesses and the nonprofits," Denton said. "We wanted them to have an idea of where Statesboro is going and where we've been."
Sights and destinations included City Hall, the GSU City Campus, the Averitt Center for the Arts, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, the William James Educational Complex, where the Bulloch County Board of Education is now headquartered, and the Van Buren Hospital on Elm Street.
These last two locations highlighted the work of two historic African-American leaders in Bulloch County, educational pioneer professor William James and medical pioneer Dr. Harvey Van Buren.
Students saw the Blue Mile of South Main Street and learned the location of the Willie McTell Trail. Walking tour segments were interspersed between bus rides. Students shopped at the farmers market and walked to see Galactic Comics & Games, Vandy's Barbecue and the Averitt Center's facilities on both East and West Main streets. The Statesboro Herald's parking area was a stopping point for the buses.
The Food Bank and other service and historic sites were noted from the buses.
"There were 37, I think, community members waiting to meet the buses, and they embedded themselves in these student groups and help give the tours," said Denton, expressing the program's appreciation.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.