In her introductory remarks to the Lawrence community on January 23 of this year, incoming President Dr. Jill Beck commented, “One goal of a great university should be to graduate altruistic citizens,” adding, “We can each add to the strength of the fabric of life in our greater community, and we should do so.” Over the years, Lawrence students have proven themselves up to the task of volunteering for the enrichment of the greater community, and this year is no exception. The Volunteer and Community Service Center, or VCSC coordinates the majority of volunteerism through Lawrence University. With the exception of supervisor Karleen Dietrich, the VCSC is entirely student-run. This year’s student staff includes Peter Iversen, Jeff Christoff, Brian Hilgeman, Leah Sinn, and Kim Dunlap. According to Dunlap, Youth Enrichment Programs Coordinator at the VCSC, “We had volunteers log over two thousand hours the first and second terms combined last year,” which does not include volunteer activities that were organized independently of the VCSC, such as some Greek volunteerism efforts.
While there are many service opportunities offered by the VCSC, certain volunteer activities have proven to be perennial favorites. Shack-a-thon, the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin’s annual benefit, and events associated with Advocating Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week (or AH-HA Week) have always drawn large numbers of volunteers. These events are one-time only chances to volunteer, and according to Dunlap, account for the majority of volunteers working through the VCSC.
The VCSC also has many opportunities for on-going volunteerism. LARY buddies, in which LU students are paired with school children and PALS, which provides students with an elderly friend at Pioneer Village, are both examples of on-going opportunities for volunteerism. According to Dunlap, however, the VCSC is in most need of LU students to participate in its VITAL tutoring program. Potential VITAL tutors fill-out a simple application in which they specify which subjects they can tutor, and which age group they prefer to tutor. Students being tutored range from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Currently, there are about thirty or forty students participating as VITAL tutors, but more are needed, with one or two new requests per week coming to the VCSC from schools and parents.
While the VCSC handles a large portion of volunteer activities at Lawrence, Greek organizations also actively volunteer. Each fraternity and sorority on campus has a philanthropy for which they volunteer and fundraise. For example, this year, the Phi Delta Theta fraternity has become particularly involved in promoting awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. During the last Fall Festival, the Phi Delts sponsored an ALS awareness forum, and they will continue their effort in a “Walk to Defeat ALS.” The walk is planned for May 15, and the Phi Delts will walk around neighborhoods surrounding the Lawrence campus to raise ALS awareness.
For more information on opportunities to volunteer, go to the VCSC website at www.lawrence.edu/sorg/vcsc, call x6644, or stop by the VCSC office during business hours, located behind the Information Desk at the Union.