Families have opportunity to make blankets to give back this weekend

Analicia Haynes, Editor-in-Chief

Students and their families will have the opportunity to give back to the community during this year’s Family Weekend by volunteering for one of two different events on Saturday.

Beth Gillespie, the interim director for the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, and Crystal Brown, the assistant director for the office, said there are two ways students can help out on Saturday on and off campus.

The first is participating at the Fit-2-Serve Community Garden in Mattoon, which is an off-campus service project, and the second opportunity is the Fleece Blanket Service Project, which will be on campus in the University Ballroom of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

Brown said families can help weed and harvest while participating at the garden, but those interested need to register beforehand by going to [email protected].

She said volunteers do not have to drive there. Instead, everyone should meet by the Panther Pantry in the Union by 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and volunteers help from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

The Fleece Blanket project will be from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday and is intended to create blankets for children through One Stop Community Christmas.

“Families, friends, students all are welcome to come by,” Brown said. “They can stay for 10 minutes and make one blanket or they can stay the whole two hours and make as many as they want.”

Both events are free.

So far this year, there have been over 1,200 students who have volunteered through the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism in the past six weeks, Gillespie said.

“That is a huge amount of students coming in and doing good, and as we know our campus loves to get involved and to give back,” she said.

She said knowing this is why she believes students’ families also have that spirit of giving.

“If not, if they haven’t grown up volunteering, this could be a really cool way for our students to say, ‘Here’s this new thing that I discovered (and) that I would like to be a part of, let’s go do some good together,’” Gillespie said. “(This) could potentially open up the practice of volunteering and giving back.”

She said the office wants students to invite their loved ones to participate, something she referred to as “volun-tolding.”

“We want our students to say to their families and loved ones, ‘Hey, let’s go do this thing,’ which we call “volun-tolding” in our world. That’s when someone says, “We’re going to do this together,’” Gillespie said. “We’ve all had those friends in our lives that say, ‘Hey, I signed up to do this, you’re coming with me.’”

But Brown said when this happens, students usually end up loving it.

“You have to start somewhere,” Brown said.

Gillespie said the two volunteer opportunities are also a way for families to get a chance to see what life is like in Charleston and to get a taste of the community.

“That’s why we think it’s important,” she said.

Overall, Brown said they like to challenge themselves, and since volunteers were able to make 60 blankets two years ago, their goal is to make more than that.

“Knowing that we have more students and our students are very engaged already and connected, I would love to see us hit or exceed that goal this year, and I think that’s doable,” Brown said.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].