Archive for Sunday, November 24, 2002

University provides bulk of Lawrence volunteers

November 24, 2002


On a mild fall afternoon last week, Andrew Hare and a dozen or so other members of the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity at Kansas University could be found at Quail Run Park in West Lawrence, picking up trash.

"This is to give back to the community," said Hare, the fraternity's community service chairman. "This is a good way for us to spend an hour together, once a month, cleaning up parks."

Hare estimated the fraternity accumulated 600 man-hours of volunteer service each semester. He'd like to see more KU students helping out in the community.

"I wish there were more," he said. "I don't think there's enough that do it."

Perhaps, but officials at the university and in the city say thousands of KU students sustain a number of Lawrence nonprofit organizations through volunteer work - serving breakfast to the homeless at the Jubilee Cafe, working in after-school programs across town, or raising money for the United Way through the Rock Chalk Revue.

"I would say of our 2,000 referrals each year, at least half are students," said Michelle Heller, director of the Roger Hill Volunteer Center, a clearinghouse where Douglas County organizations and volunteers find each other.

"They're acting as mentors to children, they're tutoring, they're doing about everything," she said. "They run the gamut in all of the volunteering categories."

Maggie Beedles is co-director of KU's Center for Community Outreach, an organization founded 10 years ago by the student senate. She said the organization had placed 7,000 students in volunteer opportunities last year in Lawrence and Douglas County.

Some students, she said, volunteer because of course work requirements. Others do it because it will look good on their resume.

"Our mission statement, first and foremost, is to fill needs in the Lawrence community," she said. "The second is to provide personally fulfilling educational opportunities for students."

Hare said there were a variety of reasons his fraternity volunteered.

"It looks good on a resume," he said. "It helps us add hours to our community service log. It helps you have a sense of charity. And projects like this give people in the community a chance to see there are good things going on" with KU students.

Shannon McCoy, administrative clerk for the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said that whatever the reason, KU students were a big help. Student organizations have adopted all or part of five of the city's nine major parks.

"It makes a big difference," McCoy said. "We'd like to get the news spread out more - they're a tremendous help."

Heller agrees. She said the impact of students was easy to gauge: Just watch what happens when most students leave town during the summer.

"There's this dire need in the summer, when the students leave. We have to start recruiting older folks," she said. "We couldn't really function without the students in this town, in terms of volunteerism."

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