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Alumni and friends of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, came together across the nation June 5 to participate in a day of service to help their local communities. From the St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix, Arizona, to highway beautification in Columbia, South Carolina, and activities in Knoxville, more than 150 Volunteers in 15 cities joined together in the service of others.

“I look forward to Volunteering with the Vols every year,” said Taylor Thomas, director of alumni student recruitment and scholarships at UT. “Seeing members of our Big Orange family go out in their communities to serve others is something really special. That is what it truly means to be a Tennessee Volunteer, and it is what makes UT different from other universities.”

Alumna Melissa Tribble and current SGA Vice President Reginald Williams II sort through and tag donated clothes at Smokey’s Closet, a free professional clothing closet for students, in UT’s Student Union.

In Knoxville Ellie Pritchard, a Bluff City, Tennessee native and rising junior studying neuroscience and German, volunteered her time with Smokey’s Closet, located in the Student Union building on campus. The closet provides free gently used professional clothing for students preparing for interviews and internships.

“As I learned more about the closet, I realized how awesome it is and wanted to tell people about it,” Pritchard said as she sorted and folded clothes. “It has been nice to meet everyone, and I’m excited to keep these connections. I just want to do something purposeful with the day.”

Across campus in the Big Orange Pantry, which is celebrating six months in existence, Volunteers unloaded pallets of food donated by the grocery store Food City. The pantry provides food assistance and other essentials for members of the university community in a stigma-free storelike environment.

Bettie Sue Sparks (’69, ‘81), an assistant professor of practice in UT’s Center for Educational Leadership, is a retired elementary school principal who volunteered at the pantry because she is passionate about the issue of hunger in our society.

“It is incumbent upon those of us who can do more to provide whatever possible in terms of service to make it better for everyone,” said Sparks. “We know there are people—not just on campus, but all over today—volunteering and working to make things better. That’s what makes UT so special.”

Robin Rolland, of Compassion Ministries, and Evan Oliver, UT’s Big Orange Pantry coordinator, unload food donated by Food City.

Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends also had the option of performing self-service volunteer work in their communities during the day. Photos from events across the country include locations in Birmingham and northern Alabama; Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; Columbia, South Carolina; Knoxville and Memphis, Tennessee; Phoenix, Arizona; and southwest Florida.


Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993,

Gerhard Schneibel (865-974-9299,