Volunteer opportunities highlighted at annual event

Brittany Webb

Staff Writer

Parkland students looking for volunteer opportunities found numerous possibilities at the annual volunteer fair held Sept. 23.

The volunteer fair was an opportunity for students to network with local volunteer organizations and an opportunity for local organizations to meet possible volunteers.

“We have been doing the volunteer fair for a few years now,” said Jordan Hall, volunteer coordinator at Parkland. “There was one last spring, we are having one now, and we are planning one for next spring – essentially one per semester.”

There were a number of organizations at the volunteer fair this year including: Special Olympics, Wesley Food Pantry, Girl Scouts, Champaign Parks, Blood Services, CU@Home, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. All are regional or local not-for-profits or community organizations that serve populations to help meet their needs.

Parkland’s chapter of Alpha Phi Omega also had a table at the event. They were looking for new volunteer opportunities and also new members.

Alpha Phi Omega is a national coeducational service organization founded on the principles of Leadership, Friendship and Service. It provides its members the opportunity to develop leadership skills as they volunteer on their campus, in their community, to the nation, and to the organization, according to their national website.

“We gain more service partners through the volunteer fair,” said Brittany Rhed, vice president of membership, pledge trainer and fellowship chair. “They see we are an on campus organization.”

Hall has been volunteering since he was 12 years old, and thinks volunteering is important for the community. He says he knows it is mutually beneficial for the volunteers.

“As a volunteer you gain leadership experience, hands-on experience which is useful for jobs.” Hall said.

Hall also says long-term volunteer opportunities are kind of like internships in that you get leadership experience and hands on experience. It’s not only rewarding but also helps build job skills for after graduation.

“I feel you get a lot of good experience and network connections,” said Ron Coffel, APO’s vice president of service. “And of course the feel good of being able to help out.”

Coffel also said they have a lot of events with some of the partners that were in attendance.

“Wesley Food Pantry, we have events with all the time,” said Coffel. “We’ve been working with the Girl Scouts for a long time.”

Wesley Food Pantry is a food pantry located on the University of Illinois campus. It also operates on Parkland’s campus the first and third Saturdays and second and fourth Wednesdays of the month. Most students are low income and can apply for assistance from the food pantry.

APO often assists with stocking the shelves and distributing food.

The volunteer fair wasn’t aimed at a specific group of students.

“It’s for everybody, and I hope there is a volunteer organization here that would be interesting for everybody,” Hall said.

Faculty and staff were also welcome to attend.

“Volunteering is a great way to get involved in the community,” said Coffel.

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with a community organization, contact Student Life, located in U-111, or by phone at 217-351-2492. Organizations can also be contacted individually to see if volunteers are needed.

If you are interested in joining Alpha Phi Omega, contact them at parklandapo@gmail.com, or stop by their office, located in Student Life, U-111.