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Student volunteerism increases here and across the country

Oct. 31, 2006
By Dru Riley Evarts

Millions of leaves are falling, and hundreds of Ohio University students are preparing to rake them up for senior citizens and disabled householders in the community. Their Run 'n' Rake project is being organized for Nov. 12 by the East Green residence life staff as part of the community service arm of the Office of Residence Life. 

Do you know someone who could use some help? Would you like to give of your time?

Run 'n' Rake
To have a lawn raked on Nov. 12, you will need to register by Nov. 1. E-mail or call Annie at russele1@ohio.edu or 597-3004 with the address and description of lawn.

Center for Community Service
Contact them at 593-4007 or visit their Web site.

Alpha Phi Omega
Visit their Web site or e-mail rh287503@ohio.edu.

Other volunteer opportunities are handled through the university's Center for Community Service, which has a staff of one full-time VISTA person, a graduate assistant and a student scholar who work together to match up requests for help with student groups or individual students. As recommended by Vision OHIO, the university's new strategic plan, this center has been realigned with the Campus Life Department in the Division of Student Affairs. It maintains a Web site to keep students informed about needs in the community. 

The oldest and largest service fraternity on campus, Alpha Phi Omega, involves about 200 men and women in raising money for good causes, baby-sitting for people participating in worthy campaigns, gathering and packing school supplies for kids, helping with Kids on Campus, working with ATCO and Passion Works, assisting at the Athens Community Center, serving free meals at several churches, taking service trips to four locations over coming academic vacations (Massachusetts, Louisiana, Florida and the Dominican Republic), and other services. 

These are just three of the campus sources coupling willing student volunteers with good causes. But there are many more. Nearly every student organization - whether it be a social sorority or fraternity, professional student group, church-related club, class-organized committee, or simply a group of friends wanting to do good works - is fielding volunteers able and willing to help when needs arise. 

This trend also is visible at college campuses across the country. The number of student volunteers rose from 2.7 million to 3.3 million between 2002 and 2005, a growth of more than 20 percent according to a survey of the Corporation of National & Community Service (CNCS), as reported last week by the Associated Press. This survey estimates that altogether about 30 percent of students across the country volunteer. No percentage has been calculated so far this year for Ohio University, according to Anne Lombard, director of campus life, although she says she has sensed an increase as the academic year has gotten into full swing. 

The CNCS study also was reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education, which pointed out that the 20 percent growth in college-student volunteerism is two and one-half times the 8 percent growth in number of college students over the same time period. 

The most active service fraternity is Alpha Phi Omega, which has a Web site bulging with examples of its fund-raising prowess ($36,655 for Relay for Life and $18,120 for the 5k race over the last three years), meeting notices, notes organizing for the next projects, and other news about both work and social get-togethers. Members also do plenty of "grunt work" to help out wherever needed. They have won a number of awards for their outstanding chapter here, as well as recognitions from local organizations. This chapter has been chosen to play a major role in the fraternity's national convention in Louisville between Christmas and New Year, 

Why do students choose volunteerism over relaxing, socializing, pursuing self-interests, or any number of other options? "I really want to make a contribution," said Kiley O'Laughlin, a very active APO member and junior from Terre Haute, Ind. "Our group really makes a difference, and we have a good time doing it." 

Increasing volunteerism, service learning and community service were goals mentioned by a number of departments, schools, colleges and implementation teams as they filed their reports for Vision OHIO planning. Not only was this listed as important for students' development as responsible community members, but it will be a key element in assisting the Appalachian Ohio area through all manner of volunteerism: tutoring (the most-mentioned service of college students, according to the CSNC study); to computer "geek" help; to research for a school, business or community; to lending a hand in emergencies such as fire or flood; to helping with children's sports and other programs; to fund-raising for community causes; and, yes, to raking leaves. 

The East Green Residence Life volunteers can be reached through 597-3004 or russele1@ohio.edu; the Center for Community Service through its Web site, www.ohio.edu/commserv/, or 593-4007 and Alpha Phi Omega through www.ouapo.com or e-mail to President Ryan Hartley at rh287503@ohio.edu.

Dru Riley Evarts is the university editor with the Office of the Provost.


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Published: Oct 30, 2006 3:15:20 PM
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