Celebrating the community

Volunteerism brings together more than 700 volunteers

By Hannah Lentz | 3/30/16 11:10pm

GVL / Sara Carte - Volunteer, Willma Vanderzwaag (middle), plays in the wii bowling tournament for Community Outreach Week at the Covenant Village of the Great Lakes on Thursday, Mar. 24, 2016.
by Sara Carte and Sara Carte / The Lanthorn

During this year's annual Community Outreach Week, more than 700 faculty, staff, alumni, students and community members came together to make a difference.

A collaborative event between alumni and students, Grand Valley State University has been participating in the national day of service for many years. From March 19 to March 26, GVSU hosted several projects in the local community as well as opportunities for service at alumni branches across the nation.

"There were projects taking place all over the world and they are all different," said Krashawn McElveen, alumni relations assistant. "From outdoor community clean ups, working on houses for Habitat for Humanity, to baking meals for Gilda’s Club members."

One of these projects included volunteer efforts from GVSU's Career Center. Ten staff members volunteered with Feeding America West Michigan in Comstock Park from 1 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. on March 22.

"During that time we were in charge of sorting various food items," said Megan Risken, assistant director at the Career Center.

A team of people, including Career Center staff sorted and bagged asparagus and then weighed and bagged cereal. Another team boxed up Pop Tarts.

"Our staff loves to do volunteer work together," Risken said. "It is great team bonding, and it is fun to see an organization like Feeding America that is doing so much good in the community."

Risken and Career Center staff members encourage students to involve themselves with community service opportunities, especially when they are conveniently coordinated by GVSU.

"College students can often get stuck within the campus bubble," Risken said. "Participating in activities in the community can open up a student’s worldview. Plus, it just feels good to help others."

Acts of volunteerism can also be a useful addition to a student's resume when they enter the professional world after graduation Risken said.

"We find that employers love to see students who have done work in the community," Risken said. "That is a valued experience for many organizations that look to hire our students."

In addition to the Career Center, other offices at GVSU participated in the week of service including the Community Service Learning Center and the Kaufman Interfaith Institute.

"It is great for faculty and staff to be involved in the community," Risken said. "We want our community to see and feel that GVSU cares."

Though hundreds of GVSU students volunteer throughout the year, Community Outreach Week would like to see increased involvement of Lakers in all aspects of volunteerism.

"We would like to continue to increase student and alumni engagement and get more students and alumni at events together so they can interact and network together while volunteering," McElveen said. "Lakers are civically engaged and taught to be good citizens of the world. This week helps to bring those ideas alumni learned as students back to the forefront of their work in their communities."

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