News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 19, 2013

Chance to lend a hand: Volunteer Fair brings 30 nonprofits to ISU students

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Freshman Ashley Smith said she likes to be around children, so it was a natural connection for her to sign up with Big Brothers Big Sisters during the Volunteer Fair at the Indiana State University campus on Wednesday.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is about working with families and children, and social work is part of that,” the Chicago native said.

It also fits with the requirements of her social work class, Smith said, because she has to have 30 volunteer service hours completed during this fall semester.

“I like to be around kids. I just like helping people, period,” Smith said.

The volunteer fair featured booths by about 30 nonprofit organizations that hoped to tap into the campus energy.

Several students signed up for bell ringing, musical performance and helping with the pumpkin patch and parade projects at the Salvation Army in Terre Haute.

“I’m really impressed that students are willing to do this,” said Christine Knight, social service director of the Salvation Army.

The volunteer fair is a project of the Center for Community Engagement at ISU. With agency booths situated around the fountain in Dede Plaza, students, faculty and staff had a convenient venue to connect with agencies that promoted their services in the community.

ISU is ranked at the top of 2013 Washington Monthly College Guide’s list of universities in the category of community service participation and hours worked by students, faculty and staff.  Among the many events and programs hosted by the center are alternative breaks, AmericCorps, College Day of ACtion, a community garden, Daffodil Days, Donaghy Day, two days of service, Special Olympics, Sycamore Service Challenge, and Stop and Serve.

AmeriCorps program director Jennifer Christian said that volunteerism has become a common thread at the campus — for good reason.

“It’s very important on resumes to show a volunteer commitment,” Christian said, pointing out that ISU’s career center knows that employers consider volunteerism as a desirable character trait.

“Employers now are looking for our students to get involved. It looks good on a resume, and it’s beneficial to the community,” she said.

For students who are hesitant to fully commit time to volunteering, Christian said, there are Stop and Serve opportunities on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month in the Commons of Hulman Memorial Student Union.

Because the community is usually in need of hygiene kits, back to school kits, holiday cards and soldier care kits, Stop and Service was created as a quick opportunity for students to give a few minutes during their lunch breaks.

“We tell people that volunteering doesn’t have to be a job,” she said. “If you give two hours a month, that’s two hours more that the agency didn’t have before.”

Among the agencies looking for volunteers was Open Arms Family and Educational Service, located in Greene County. Open Arms provides a residential home for girls ages 14 to 21, an education center for credit recovery and GED classes, and a foster parenting program. The agency provides services to youths from around the state, said advancement coordinator Larry Pearson, adding that ISU students and staff who commute from the Switz City area may be interested in volunteering near their home community.

Denise Amos of March of Dimes said many students are interested in working to help babies in whatever way they can. If that isn’t through an organized event, she said, that help can come in volunteering to do office work.

Indianapolis freshman Cameron Carter said he has a history of volunteering in his home community through a church organization that helped senior citizens with projects such as mowing lawns, cleaning gutters and repainting homes.

“My mom always told me that it’s good to volunteer, and I feel like this will help me get more involved in the community,” Carter said after filling out an interest form for the Salvation Army.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com.