Volunteers Welcomed

Students help stuff scarecrows for Habitat for Humanity during the Welcome Week Service Project. The service day event saw more than 200 students volunteer at 10 different nonprofits in the Peoria area.

By Frank Radosevich II
August 27, 2012

The start of classes was still days away but that did not stop more than 200 Bradley students from getting down to work in Peoria.

The students took part in the inaugural Welcome Week Service Project, a new service event that kicks off the academic year by connecting Bradley students with local volunteer opportunities. Organizers had planned on a maximum of 200 volunteers but ended up accepting 219. So many students showed up to help that organizers had to turn several of them away.

“We are providing programming that the students want and providing service that the community needs,” said Katie McGinn, director of the Lewis J. Burger Center for Student Leadership and Public Service. She said the turnout is particularly impressive since the event was primarily advertised by word of mouth just a few days after students arrived on campus.

The Welcome Week Service Project was an offshoot of the University’s successful Service on Saturday program, which provides students convenient ways to give back to the Peoria community. For Service on Saturday, volunteers head off to the various nonprofits for the day, with transportation and meals provided. Each event includes multiple service sites from which the students may choose.

Allen Ghareeb, a junior double majoring in biochemistry and religious studies, said the event is a nice addition to the University’s Welcome Week activities. Ghareeb, a native of Dunlap, Ill., who helped out with Service on Saturday, said the event encourages students to look beyond campus and become engaged citizens in their community.

“With this project, it’s a different perspective,” he said. “I think to many students it’s enlightening to have an impact on a larger community. It’s one reason why students choose Bradley.”

Some of the 10 nonprofits students volunteered at were Habitat for Humanity, the Center for the Prevention of Abuse, the Friendship House and the Peoria Park District.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for students to get involved with,” said Debbie Gaught, a 3-year volunteer with Habitat for Humanity who has worked before with the Service on Saturday program.

Gaught said the charity expected 10 to 12 students to assist during the Welcome Week Service Project but wound up with 25. She said the student volunteers stuffed and set up 20 scarecrows and prepared staging areas for games for Habitat’s annual family fair in October.

“Every time I turned around the students were asking, ‘What can we do?’” she said. “They did more than they were suppose to do.”

Morgan Wagner, a junior in health science from Urbandale, Iowa, volunteered at Wildlife Prairie State Park with 27 others by clearing trails of brush and downed limbs. She worked on establishing Service on Saturday and said the Welcome Week Service Project is a great way for freshmen to get involved and learn more about the Peoria area.

“It makes volunteering easy because we plan everything from meals to transportation,” she said.

Students wanting to participate can register as volunteers for Service on Saturday here and local nonprofit agencies can apply to receive volunteers here.