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.
Ã¢ÂÂThis is to give back to the community,Ã¢ÂÂ said Hare, the fraternityÃ¢ÂÂs community service chairman. Ã¢ÂÂThis is a good way for us to spend an hour together, once a month, cleaning up parks.Ã¢ÂÂ
Hare estimated the fraternity accumulated 600 man-hours of volunteer service each semester. HeÃ¢ÂÂd like to see more KU students helping out in the community.
Ã¢ÂÂI wish there were more,Ã¢ÂÂ he said. Ã¢ÂÂI donÃ¢ÂÂt think thereÃ¢ÂÂs enough that do it.Ã¢ÂÂ
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.
Ã¢ÂÂI would say of our 2,000 referrals each year, at least half are students,Ã¢ÂÂ said Michelle Heller, director of the Roger Hill Volunteer Center, a clearinghouse where Douglas County organizations and volunteers find each other.
Ã¢ÂÂTheyÃ¢ÂÂre acting as mentors to children, theyÃ¢ÂÂre tutoring, theyÃ¢ÂÂre doing about everything,Ã¢ÂÂ she said. Ã¢ÂÂThey run the gamut in all of the volunteering categories.Ã¢ÂÂ
Maggie Beedles is co-director of KUÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
Ã¢ÂÂOur mission statement, first and foremost, is to fill needs in the Lawrence community,Ã¢ÂÂ she said. Ã¢ÂÂThe second is to provide personally fulfilling educational opportunities for students.Ã¢ÂÂ
Hare said there were a variety of reasons his fraternity volunteered.
Ã¢ÂÂIt looks good on a resume,Ã¢ÂÂ he said. Ã¢ÂÂIt 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 onÃ¢ÂÂ with KU students.
Shannon McCoy, administrative clerk for the cityÃ¢ÂÂs 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 cityÃ¢ÂÂs nine major parks.
Ã¢ÂÂIt makes a big difference,Ã¢ÂÂ McCoy said. Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂd like to get the news spread out more - theyÃ¢ÂÂre a tremendous help.Ã¢ÂÂ
Heller agrees. She said the impact of students was easy to gauge: Just watch what happens when most students leave town during the summer.
Ã¢ÂÂThereÃ¢ÂÂs this dire need in the summer, when the students leave. We have to start recruiting older folks,Ã¢ÂÂ she said. Ã¢ÂÂWe couldnÃ¢ÂÂt really function without the students in this town, in terms of volunteerism.Ã¢ÂÂ