Panther Service Day offers new sites, collaborations

Kalyn Hayslett, Editor-in-Chief

Students can volunteer sooner and at new locations for the 15th Annual Panther Service Day April 1, which will kick-start Greek Week.

Beth Gillespie, director of the civic engagement and volunteerism office, said making Panther Service Day a part of Greek Week is something new the office is trying this year.

“In the past Panther Service Day is typically later in April, and we do have Greek participation. But by building it into Greek Week, we are hopeful that we will have more students go out, both from the Greek community and not,” Gillespie said.

Individuals and groups will receive free T-shirts if they register to volunteer by Thursday. Students can register online by going to the Panther Service Day tab on the Civic Engagement and Volunteerism Office homepage.

If students are a part of a fraternity, sorority or registered student organization with more than five people volunteering, they will need to complete a group registration form. Individual registration forms are also available.

Greek Week lasts from March 31 to April 9. Airband performances, Panther Service Day and Greek Sing will all take place the first weekend.

Crystal Brown, assistant director for the civic engagement and volunteerism office, said the Greek Week volunteer committee came up with idea in the hopes of engaging more Greek members.

Committee member Catie Witt said the Panhellenic Council requires its fraternities and sororities to have 15 percent of their members participate.

“They came to (the volunteerism office) about doing a service project on that Saturday, and we discussed it here and with them. We thought, ‘Why don’t we move Panther Service Day and make it a collaborative effort and a larger event?’” Brown said.

Check-in will be at 9 a.m. April 1 in the University Ballroom of the Martin Luther King Jr. Union. Participants can have bagel and cream cheese in the morning and will be dismissed based on site location. Students are responsible for providing their own lunch, Gillespie said.

Students can choose from volunteer sites that have been offered during Panther Service Day for years including HOPE, Douglas Heart Nature Center, Standing Stone Community Center, Five Mile House and First Fruits Homestead.

They can also choose sites typically offered during different times of the year including a mobile food pantry, a car wash fundraiser and community aid in Ashmore.

Gillespie said this year is the first time students can volunteer for Choices for Pregnancy, where they can help clean up the agency’s thrift store, stock the shelves and organize the merchandise.

“They help women with education during pregnancy (and) help with education about parenting in terms of techniques, physical and emotional health of babies after birth. They support the mother and baby until the baby is 2 to 3 years old. They do it for free,” Gillespie said.

Choices for Pregnancy only has one employee and relies on volunteers to help maintain the educational services they provide all year, Gillespie said.

“We like them because they support mothers who have low income, may be struggling or who are trying to be a different kind of parent then they have experienced — and they do this in a judgment-free supportive environment,” she said.

The car wash fundraiser will be held in the Auto Zone parking lot, and the goal is to raise $250, which will be donated to One Stop Community Christmas, Gillespie said.

Volunteers will make signs in the morning to recruit community members, Brown said.

The Eastern Illinois Food Bank will organize the mobile food pantry sites. The volunteers will travel to Georgetown, Illinois, approximately an hour away, so students will meet in the Union and carpool to the location.

“Just due to the nature of the program, it will take place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. which is a little longer than the time of the rest of the projects,” Brown said.

Every location will have student government representatives and executive board members to serve as site leaders.

Gillespie said the student government representatives will help answer questions and make sure everyone is having fun and knows what they need to do.

“We are going to act as those Prowl leaders for Panther Service Day. We don’t have a volunteer requirement for student government, but we always try to do our best to volunteer together,” Witt said.

Since 2003, student government has co-sponsored the service day and helped supply the free T-shirts.

“We are really grateful for the partnership; we are glad that it has continued, and we think it offers the senators from student government another chance to be a leader for those who put them in office,” Gillespie said. “To go out and spend time doing good together is a powerful experience and for those in student government who are wanting to be leaders on campus we think it’s a great way for them to do just that.”

Witt said the current student senators are not shy and will use this time to meet new people.

“This gives them a chance to branch out and potentially meet new people and maybe learn a perspective they originally did not hear before,” Witt said.

Kalyn Hayslett can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].