For more than 25 years, the University of Guelph has welcomed the start of the school year giving back to the community through its volunteer initiative, Project Serve.

Two people cutting vegetables on a cutting board stand together in masks smiling for the camera.
Project Serve volunteers get to work in the kitchen at Hope House

This year, 350 students will offer their time to help more than 25 different community organizations for Project Serve, a day of volunteering, Saturday, Sept. 16.

“It’s a great way to make friends, get to know the Guelph community, and build connections,” says Madison Paul, programs assistant with Student Volunteer Connections, based out of the Experiential Learning Hub.

Now in her third year at U of G studying international development and geography, Paul says, “Project Serve showed me the incredible work that local organizations are doing and how they’re contributing to the social development of our communities.”

Project Serve works with non-profits, like the Guelph Food Bank and The Seed, that address food insecurity, social justice organizations, like Hope House and Stepping Stone, that work with the community’s unhoused. Other partners include Community Living, Habitat for Humanity and the Guelph Humane Society, local radio and healthcare organizations, among others.

Each participating organization contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – recognizing the interconnectedness between poverty, food insecurity and the climate crisis to advance health, well-being and equity – which align with Our Time: U of G’s Strategic Plan 2022-27.

“It’s definitely going to be an energetic, action-packed day,” says Paul, “with so much to learn and to gain from contributing.”

Volunteer for one afternoon or make a longer commitment

Two students wearing gray Project Serve t-shirts carry a bench through the woods at Hanlon Creek.
Project Serve volunteers at Hanlon Creek

Students who give their time to Project Serve will start the day with a welcome at the University Centre (UC) followed by a pizza lunch before joining a team assigned to a community partner.

The afternoon will be spent volunteering, culminating with a volunteer fair in the UC to engage students in ongoing volunteerism. There, students will have the opportunity to speak directly with representatives from partner organizations and secure more long-term commitments.

One of the goals of Project Serve is to build connections among students and community partners for further volunteer, education or work opportunities. Paul is one of those students – she now volunteers every week with the adoption centre at Dorset Rescue Kittens.

“Project Serve allowed me to gain local, civic knowledge and introduced me to the issues facing Guelph and how so many organizations work together with volunteers to help solve these challenges,” Paul says.

“It expands your self-awareness, your experience as a student and your career exploration.”

Many of the students involved with Project Serve return each year, Paul said. Volunteers are welcome to come solo, or with a group of friends. “We’re definitely trying to get the word out among first-year students and introduce them to the idea of community service.”

Register for Project Serve on this form.

Questions? Contact Student Volunteer Connections at:

To learn more about Project Serve, check out U of G Experiential Learning on Instagram or Twitter and check for events on GryphLife or visit Student Volunteer Connections online.