Civic Engagement and Volunteerism office lends helping hands to community

Abbey Whittington, Entertainment Editor

The Civic Engagement and Volunteerism office provides a number of volunteer programs to students including Mark Twain Mentoring and Girls on the Run.

The Mark Twain program is a volunteer opportunity where two to four volunteers travel to the Mark Twain Elementary School from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays.

During this time the volunteers have lunch with the students and serve as adult role models other than their parents, guardians or siblings.

Elizabeth Gillespie, the interim director of the Civic Engagement and Volunteerism Office, said the volunteers help out during the students’ lunchtime, talking to and helping the preschoolers and kindergarteners open their fruit packs, yogurt, Capri Suns or anything else the students might need help with.

“That age group is super chatty and a lot of fun,” Gillespie said. “The kids tell you a thousand stories and all you have to do is say hi and they will say something like, ‘I love rainbows’ or ‘let me tell you about my cat’.”

After lunch, the volunteers engage with the students during recess, and sometimes lead games for the remaining 30 minutes at Mark Twain. Once recess is over, the volunteers return to Eastern.

“It’s a really fun way to get involved and spend times with kids who love and crave positive adult interaction,” Gillespie said. “This is also a volunteer oppurtunity that’s easy to build into different schedules.”

Gillespie said that the office has a flexible schedule and that volunteers do not have to go to each of the mentoring days if they do not have the time.

Girls on the Run is a 5k put together for elementary schoolgirls with the goals of boosting their self-esteems.

The volunteers help by cheering the young participants on and running with them to make sure no one finishes last.

Two additional volunteer opportunities are coming up this Saturday, including preparing the garden beds for a local farm called First Fruit and running a mobile food truck to Humboldt, which is 20 miles from Charleston.

Kelsi Grubisich, first year graduate student and college student affairs major, plans to volunteer for Saturday.

Grubisich oversees some of the service projects in the office including a summer day camp that takes place Monday through Thursday.

“I like being able to help better the community in any way that I can,” Grubisich said. “I think there’s something for everybody in our office.”

Gillespie said the main reason the office partners with First Fruit is because they donate their produce to food pantries in Coles County.

“Food, security and poverty are significant issues for our community both on and off campus,” Gillespie said. “That’s why we work really hard to support the local food pantries we have here.”

The farm is also open to volunteers assisting the animals on the farm by either milking the cows or helping the newborn horse or sheep.

As for the mobile food truck, the office is looking to take 10 people to Humboldt in order to box up food to give to families in need.

The mobile food truck goes out to a different location each weekend, and is always within an 11 county radius.

There will be approximately 30 volunteers and transportation to Humboldt will be provided.

“We want to change lives for people in our community,” Gillespie said. “We try to do different service projects to make an impact.”

The volunteer office has different opportunities available every day, and any students that are interested can get involved by registering online, Gillespie said.


Abbey Whittington can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]