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Creating for the community

Posted December 22, 2015
Story by Michele Paulosky, Reprinted from InterCom

Students working for Ezekiel Ministries had never before created a website in 24 hours, but the energy and passion flowing from teammates, mentors and the nonprofit organization seemed to make anything possible. This is CreateAthon@USC and it’s the only reason college students would willingly stay at school for 24 hours straight.

“It was a very different experience,” said 2015 participant Charlotte Price. “Getting to know each other through our work ethics and styles and having to make those styles cohesive for our client was one of the most difficult aspects.”

On November 6-7, more than 60 students and six nonprofits joined together for an unforgettable CreateAthon@USC. Between early Friday afternoon and mid-afternoon Saturday, their work was completed and delivered to nonprofits for their review.

It’s not just a 24-hour creative exercise, but it’s a forum for practical solutions. Clients can go on to implement after CreateAthon’s final hour. Past participants have found value in the students’ volunteered creativity.

Epworth Children’s Home is a haven for children ages four to eighteen to escape broken family situations and find a place to grow, learn and be loved. Its main goal in participating in CreateAthon@USC 2014 was to reach more potential volunteers. “It was a great opportunity for nonprofits like us who don’t have a marketing or research budget to be able to find creative solutions to the everyday problems,” said VP for Development, Andrew Boozer.

CreateAthon@USC helped Epworth Children’s Home create a marketing plan to relate to volunteers and community groups who could be potential mentors to the children. Using the brochures, postcard and volunteer map created by the student and mentor team, Epworth Children’s Home has been able to secure 25 percent more mentors eager to work with the program.

Tutor Eau Claire, a 2013 participant, needed a website with a better presence to increase community awareness and provide help and resources, such as distributing information about dyslexia or provide effective tutoring, at little or no cost to the families.

With a new logo, brochure and website design, Tutor Eau Claire has at least tripled e-commerce and information website traffic in the two short years since CreateAthon@USC, according to director Tracey Ely. The literacy outreach program has been able to help more families and young readers because of the creative solutions implemented in its new marketing and communications plan. “I thought the CreateAthon was a tremendous gift to us and the nonprofit organizations. It is a great blessing to have them work with us and push us to get a little better,” said Ely.

Edgefield County Theatre Company had a demographic problem. It wanted more local actors and was not reaching its targeted 35-45 year old age group.

CreateAthon brought us to the real world.” said Mary Benedetto, the community theatre’s president. Since CreateAthon@USC, the theatre has expanded its advertising to include a television presence on Channel 6 in Augusta and direct emailing to reach the target audience.

“CreateAthon was an amazing experience, but definitely stressful,” said student Cierra Michael, who worked on the Edgefield County Theatre Company project. "It was a lot of work, but very beneficial to those pursuing a career in media planning.”

As intimidating as the CreateAthon process may seem, past experiences have shown that sometimes the most creative ideas don’t hit until the 4 a.m. mark and perhaps, that hour’s third candy bar. Despite the caffeine rush and impending exhaustion, a worthy nonprofit receives a gift that is nothing short of priceless.

Michele Paulosky is a senior public relations major.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.