Athletes partner with community service

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

The Student Community Service office has partnered with the Mattoon Salvation Army, which is one of the afterschool programs under the Participating in Lifelong Active Youth Initiative (PLAY).

Rachel Fisher, the director of student community service, said the afterschool program recently began a partnership with Eastern’s Athletics where a sports team will go to the Salvation Army every Thursday and help young children K-5 from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

“It’s a great opportunity for the students athletes to make a difference in the children’s lives,” Fisher said.

Fisher said the overall PLAY initiative allows any student to help children K-8, with their homework or play games with them three times a week. She said the program has nine different sessions students can choose from with two being with the Salvation army, a dance program, teen reach, math, mentoring and a program working with children in Ashmore.

The program has about 60 children and also allows different sets of student athletes from various sports to volunteer in the program each week. The athletes on campus already to a lot of community with their Eastern Panthers in the Community (EPIC) initiative; EPIC is a trophy competition community service program that allows sports teams to compete with one another based on how many service hours completed.

Cindy Miller, the director of academic services for student athletes, said she has had a long-standing partnership with Fisher on community service programs and Fisher reached out to her about the Thursday program.

Miller also said Student athletes as well as the coaches usually have an interest in community service and in the past, through the Be The Match foundation, the students have done a spit-kit for a bone marrow donation to see if the student is a bone marrow match.

“Out athletes are really involved in community service,” Miller said.

Miller said the afterschool program is also important for those students who wish to go into education so they can have more experiences and opportunities around children.

Fisher said it’s possible children might start to request certain sports teams to come volunteer as well as get more interested in that specific sport that is volunteering. She said her hope is that in the future, more Registered Student Organizations can help with the afterschool program.

“The children get so excited to meet college kids,” Fisher said.

Ruth Garippo, a sophomore accounting major, said she got involved in volunteering at Fox Ridge as well as participating in the Adopt a Family program during Christmas last semester and enjoyed it. Garippo, who is also on the track and field team, said she recently spent some time with the Salvation Army afterschool program assisting young children with their homework and learned a lot from the experience.

“You can learn a lot from kids,” Garippo said.

Garippo said while she as at the Salvation Army, she met a two young girls who were relaxed and calm when it came to doing their homework. She said there was also one little girl who needed help with her math homework finding the greatest common factor, which the girl went back-and-forth telling Garippo that she did and then did not know how to do toying with her.

“She was just testing me—it was really cute,” Garippo said.

The athlete portion of the afterschool program will end April 23, two days before their office’s annual Service Day Fisher said.


Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].