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ECU’s associate director for orientation, Karen Smith, likes to give back to the community through her work with the Greenville Jaycees. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Smith Gives Back to Community Through Local Jaycees

In coordination with the Recognition and Rewards Committee of the ECU Staff Senate, the Pieces of Eight series honoring exceptional ECU staff recognizes Karen Smith.

By Judy Currin

Helping others is important to Karen Smith. As the associate director of orientation for ECU’s First Year Center, she is in a position daily to assist new undergraduates in becoming successful college students.

“The last, but maybe the most important sentence in our mission statement,” she said is, “We are here to help.”

Smith’s work begins in September, when she selects orientation dates and roughs out the schedule of events for the eight two-day programs, which begin in early June.

“It takes months to put all the pieces in place,” she said, “including the publications we send out and the actual registration process.”

A student staff of 25 assistants is hired to aid with the orientation program.

A parent program runs concurrently with the student program. “It’s a way for us to help parents feel more comfortable leaving their son or daughter with us,” Smith said. She said the program provides tips on “parenting their new Pirate.”

Another way Smith helps new students transition is by introducing them to service opportunities available in the community. She hopes to organize an ECU Collegiate Jaycee chapter for 18- to 21-year-old students in the near future. As a member of the Greenville Jaycees since 2004, Smith brings a wealth of volunteer experience to the student organization.

“When I first moved to the area, my apartment manager suggested getting involved with a leadership development organization for young professionals, like the Jaycees. She said it would be a great way to meet people,” Smith said.

Smith not only joined, but also took on challenging leadership roles. In addition to serving as the newsletter editor and Christmas parade co-chairperson, she has acted as parade chair, individual development vice president and membership vice president.

“Some people may not know the Greenville Jaycees are responsible for the July 4th celebration in Greenville, including the fireworks,” Smith said. “And, the Christmas Parade.”

Another major project the organization coordinates each year is the Flat Out 5K and Fun Run, where funds raised are donated to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center, along with local charities such as the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center and the Family Violence Center. And the Shuck N’ Pluck Oyster and Chicken Roast typically raises a cash donation for a different charity each year.

“In 2006, we were able to donate $500 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Pitt County,” Smith said. More Jaycee service projects and social events are available at

“I have made many good friends through the organization,” Smith said. It’s also where she met her husband.

“B.J. and I met in 2006 during the Shuck N’ Pluck,” Smith said. They are the proud parents of one-year-old son, Jordan. B.J. will serve as president of the Greenville chapter in 2009.

The Smiths are one of nine couples who have met and married through their association with the Greenville Jaycees.

“Working with the Jaycees is a good way to give back to the community,” Smith said. She expected that she might get gratification in return.

She didn’t expect to get B.J. and Jordan.

This page originally appeared in the Nov. 3, 2008 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at