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Archive for Sunday, November 24, 2002

University provides bulk of Lawrence volunteers

November 24, 2002

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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.

âÂÂThis is to give back to the community,â said Hare, the fraternityâÂÂs community service chairman. âÂÂThis is a good way for us to spend an hour together, once a month, cleaning up parks.âÂÂ

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

âÂÂI wish there were more,â he said. âÂÂI donâÂÂt think thereâÂÂs enough that do it.âÂÂ

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.

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

âÂÂTheyâÂÂre acting as mentors to children, theyâÂÂre tutoring, theyâÂÂre doing about everything,â she said. âÂÂThey run the gamut in all of the volunteering categories.âÂÂ

Maggie Beedles is co-director of KUâÂÂs 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.

âÂÂOur mission statement, first and foremost, is to fill needs in the Lawrence community,â she said. âÂÂThe second is to provide personally fulfilling educational opportunities for students.âÂÂ

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

âÂÂIt looks good on a resume,â he said. âÂÂIt 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 onâ with KU students.

Shannon McCoy, administrative clerk for the cityâÂÂs 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 cityâÂÂs nine major parks.

âÂÂIt makes a big difference,â McCoy said. âÂÂWeâÂÂd like to get the news spread out more - theyâÂÂre a tremendous help.âÂÂ

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

âÂÂThereâÂÂs this dire need in the summer, when the students leave. We have to start recruiting older folks,â she said. âÂÂWe couldnâÂÂt really function without the students in this town, in terms of volunteerism.âÂÂ

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