Monday, September 11, 2006

UIS Offers Students Chance to Impact Community

By Christine Magbanua

Freshman Jamilia Kinney’s reason for wanting to volunteer is simple: “I just like helping people.”

Jamilia wants to be a pediatrician, and she says volunteering brings her closer to that goal.

“Volunteering sort of helps me to get a feel for what I want to do,” she said.

Jamilia lives on 2 West, the Volunteer and Service wing, in Lincoln Residence Hall. This living/ learning community is made up of students committed to volunteerism, service, and civic engagement. Students learn leadership skills, practice community building, and participate in special service programming.

“Not all colleges give you the opportunity to live on a floor where there is a group of people who wants to help other people,” Jamilia said.

Jamilia was just one of the students who visited the Campus-Community Volunteer Fair on Thursday, September 7 in PAC conference rooms C and D.

More than 20 organizations set up booths to inform UIS students about the wealth of service opportunities available to them in the community. Just a quick tour of the tables left students with a hefty collection of flyers and brochures outlining interesting and enlightening options like these:

Storybook Project
Volunteers bring children’s books, tape recorders and audio tapes into correctional facilities. Inmate/parents select a book and read it aloud, recording it on tape. The parent may also add a personal message or sing a song. The book and the tape are then mailed to the inmate’s children.

“Volunteers like this project because they get to do something very tangible and very positive for families in crisis and learn about families different from their own,” said Linda Brumleve, Storybook Project director. “We have lots of volunteers and we would love to have college students.”

Computer Banc
Volunteers refurbish donated computers to give to low income families of children with learning disabilities. No technical skills are needed; people there will teach you everything you need to know. Volunteers meet on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“The faces of the kids give you such a feeling of accomplishment,” said Mary Sheila Tracy, UIS faculty and Computer Banc volunteer. “You know you made a difference in someone’s life for the better and it’s a lot of fun too.”

St. Johns Breadline
Volunteers help serve meals to people who are homeless or otherwise need help feeding themselves and their families. The Breadline serves meals 365 days a year.

Linda Freer, Breadline assistant supervisor, said volunteers come out of the experience feeling “blessed with what they have.” Freer said many times even those who were there to do court-required community service come back to volunteer on their own time

Other volunteer organizations at the fair included:

Big Brothers/Big Sisters: Serve as a positive role model to a child in need of a friend.
Sparc: Help individuals with developmental disabilities improve the quality of their lives.
Sojourn Shelter and Services, Inc.: Help victims of domestic violence.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum: Enhance visitors’ experiences with education on Lincoln and the state of Illinois.
Special Olympics: Participate in a program that provides year-round sports training and competition to people with intellectual disabilities.
Central Illinois Food Bank: Join in the effort to feed the hungry in central Illinois communities.

The Volunteer Fair and the Living Learning Community are both projects of the UIS Office of Student Volunteers and Civic Engagement. The office helps students develop social and leadership skills by becoming involved and civically engaged in both their campus community and the greater Springfield-area community.

For more information about these and other volunteer opportunities, visit