Volunteer opportunities available in Charleston community

Mercury Bowen, Entertainment Reporter

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The Eastern Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism offers several programs for students who feel the desire to get involved with the Charleston community.

With programs happening an average of six days per week, there are many different avenues for students wishing to volunteer to explore.

Crystal Brown, the assistant director of civic engagement, said there are programs available for volunteers to work with animals, seniors, children, hunger and several other areas of interest.

The programs are based on students’ interests, so the more students show an interest in specific areas of volunteerism, the more events the office hosts regarding those subject matters.

“We have seen a higher interest here recently of students wanting to work with seniors,” Brown said. “We’ve added some new programming there.”

One of the new programs is called Grandma’s Got Gmail, and it involves volunteers helping seniors with different forms of technology.

In addition to programs offered during the week, the Eastern office as well as some of the organizations the office partners with often host programs on the weekends.

“Our non-profit partners have reached out and said, ‘Hey we’re having this annual fall festival or this fundraiser for our group,’” Brown said. “‘Can you send us some volunteers to help with that?’”

Will Taylor, a junior human resource major, is a student worker in the office, and he helps run some of the programs.

One program Taylor helps run is the weekly animal shelter program, in which volunteers go to local animal shelters to help with the animals.

Taylor also helps run the Life’s Journey program, which involves visiting the assisted living facility of the same name for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“I’ll walk in there and they’ll be like, ‘Hey you’re back,’” Taylor said. “That’s cool.”

Taylor said he feels much more connected with the community because of his volunteer work.

“I feel like we sort of build a bridge between the university and the city,” Taylor said. “We do have that good relationship with both sides. I enjoy being a part of that.”

Annie Garner, a second-year graduate assistant, leads some of the programs as well as being involved in them.

“Hearing about how much (the students) enjoy the programs, I guess that would be my favorite part,” Garner said.

Brown said the office will be hosting or helping with programs such as the Special Olympics, service projects on family weekend and a program about gardening with local agencies Fit to Serve and Produce with Purpose.

The office also provides transportation to more than 90 percent of the programs.

“If students don’t have a vehicle, we don’t want that to be a barrier for them,” Brown said. “We want them to reach out to us and see what we can do to help assist them with that process.”

Brown said students can also visit the office’s Volunteer Now page for further information about programs as well as to sign up to volunteer.

“They can find everything they need to know right there,” Brown said.

Mercury Bowen can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].