Volunteer opportunities abound

When Claire Scharenberg arrived as a freshman last year at Kansas University, she was intimidated.

“I was nervous coming to KU in the first place because it is such a big university,” she said. “I didn’t have a community like I did in high school.”

Scharenberg said she wanted to get involved in university activities to help her meet new people and find her place at KU. She tried several different organizations before she stumbled onto the Center for Community Outreach.

Student Senate established the center in 1990 as a link between socially conscious students and volunteer opportunities within the KU and Lawrence communities. It now pairs 7,000 to 10,000 students with volunteer work each year. Last year the center registered 31,151 volunteer hours, which is more than one hour for each student enrolled at all KU campuses.

The center has something that would interest many students on campus, said Mark Lyda, who will be a co-coordinator at the center next school year. It sponsors more than a dozen projects that last throughout the year. Volunteers work for causes including the arts, homelessness, human rights, the environment and health care. In the process, they touch the lives of community members from elementary school students to the elderly.

“CCO is very valuable to the people for whom we volunteer,” Lyda said. “But it’s also valuable to the volunteers themselves. It’s a very rewarding experience because you feel like you are doing something good with your time and make friends with people who have the same interests that you have. You can find your niche within the university.”

Scharenberg said she found her niche in Concerned, Active and Aware Students, one of the programs the center maintains. It promotes social change with activities such as a forum on the death penalty or the Trick-or-Treat So Others Can Eat campaign, which sent students door-to-door on Halloween to collect canned goods.

She said the organization introduced her to new causes and new people and also helped her get used to the university as a whole.

“As a freshman I got to meet people older than me who could help me, not only in CCO, but on campus,” she said.

Lyda said the program is good for freshmen because scheduling is flexible. Participants can donate as much time as they want, when they want to donate it.

He said the group actively seeks freshmen with information booths at orientation and during Hawk Week, the week before classes begin.

Address: Kansas Union, Room 405.Phone: 864-4073.Web site: www.ku.edu/~cco

On Aug. 21 during Hawk Week, the group is planning a group service project from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Lyda said he didn’t know what the project would be, but last year the group took busses to Clinton Lake to help clean the area.

Scharenberg and Lyda said the best way to get involved was to stop by the center’s office in Room 405 of the Kansas Union, where students have office hours to greet interested volunteers and introduce them to the organization. More information is available by calling 864-4073, e-mailing cco@ku.edu, or visiting www.ku.edu/~cco.

The Center for Community Outreach operates a variety of programs throughout the school year.Here’s a look at the programs:Best BuddiesKansas University students are paired with high school students or recent high school graduates who have developmental disabilities to provide friendship and educational opportunities.CAASConcerned, Active and Aware Students organizes students into bringing about social change in the areas of hunger, homelessness and human rights.CREATECommunity Resources Engaging in the Arts Through Education completes service projects that focus on art, theater, music and dance.EARTHEnvironmental Action to Revitalize The Heartland works in parks, nature reserves and other areas that need environmental repair or protection.GROW Community Garden ProjectGROW volunteers tend small organic gardens with Lawrence youth to teach them teamwork, nutrition and environmental awareness.Hawks for HealthVolunteers work in area health facilities and provide health-promotion activities on campus and in Lawrence.HUGHelping Unite Generations pairs college students with elderly residents to provide friendship and record their memories in memory books.Into the Streets WeekThis week of service highlights volunteer opportunities each day, including the hunger banquet, homeless sleep-out and the Empty Bowls project.Jubilee CafeCommunity members in need can find breakfast in a restaurant environment from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and Friday mornings at First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt.LifelineKU students teach life skills such as budgeting and bill paying, college and employment applications and interviewing skills to area high school students.MILKMentors in the Lives of Kids places volunteers in after-school programs for elementary school students.Music MentorsKU students provide free private lessons in instruments or voice training for middle school students.Natural TiesVolunteers establish friendships between student organizations and those with developmental disabilities.Students Tutoring for LiteracyNative and non-native English speakers can get help with obtaining a GED, learning English, reading their first book or filling out a job application.