Student community service achieves greatness

Cassie Buchman, City Editor

Eastern student volunteers completed over 140,000 hours of community service during the last academic year.

“National research states that an hour of volunteering in the state of Illinois is equivalent to $22 back to that local community,” Fisher said. “If students completed 140,000 hours of service, then we are talking about a multi-million dollar program (where) students are key players in providing and executing.”

Rachel Fisher, the director of student community service, said students completed over 150 community service projects last semester.

“There are over 50 different local non-profits (and) causes here in the Charleston (and) Mattoon area(s) alone, and many EIU students work with each of these,” Fisher said.

Eastern students have a main interest in participating in the PLAY program and in local conservative efforts.

Volunteering in the PLAY program is offered Monday through Friday, where students get involved with and help local youth. With PLAY, students are able to commit every week to the same program and youth.

The PLAY programs have various volunteer options including reading rocks, young athletes, salvation army, Ashmore afterschool, Oakland after school, and STEP Up dancers.

Fisher said taking part in the PLAY program is a good experience for the youth and Eastern student volunteers.

“We are here to enhance (and) not just maintain our communities,” Fisher said.

Last fall, students worked on a program called “One Stop Community Christmas,” where student volunteers create fleece blankets to be distributed to local youth from seven counties in December.

The goal of distributing 1,000 blankets was reached.

“So many great individuals and groups come together to make these blankets,” Fisher said. “That is just one example of the amazing enthusiasm we saw this fall.  Participation was great.”

Another event is the MLK Service Day held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Fisher said it is a national day of service recognized by Congress 25 years ago.

Student Community Service has been participating in the MLK Service Day since it first began five years ago.

All sites and locations that were participating were filled with volunteers, with about 250 volunteers for the day.

Fisher said faculty involvement has helped student community service.

“It was great to see how many faculty are working with our office to create service learning, where volunteering and service becomes part of the classroom learning,” Fisher said.

Spring holds many other volunteer opportunities for students, including a new afterschool site in Oakland.

Student Community Service members are looking to increase and expand their local conservation efforts.

PLAY is currently looking for volunteers. These volunteers should be willing to make a semester-long commitment to the program.

The annual Panther Service Day will be on April 25.


Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].