400 volunteers expected at Panther Service Day

Valentina Vargas, Multicultural Reporter

Directors from the Civic Engagement and Volunteerism said this Panther Service Day on Saturday will be the largest one they have had with about 400 students volunteering.

Crystal Brown, the assistant director of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, said for this program this is the largest group of students in single year and it continues to grow every year with students being interested.

She said they have 30 registered student organizations participating at the event.

Beth Gillespie, the interim director of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, said Jumpstart where incoming freshman, international and transfer students volunteer at the beginning of the year is the biggest volunteering event they have with 1,200 students last year.

She said for the MLK Day of Service they have roughly 200 to 225 students on average volunteer.

Gillespie said this year they have a new nonprofit organization, which is Aikman Wildlife Adventure.

She said Aikman Wildlife Adventure is located in Arcola, which is the only one where students attending will travel the farthest and arrive the latest.

Gillespie said it is the only wildlife preserve in the state of Illinois and in their they have a predator side where they have animals like bears, hyenas, and wolf dogs in enclosed spaces and a no predator side where they have giraffes.

“We think it is pretty cool what they are doing out there, but they are also needing help because they are new and have a smaller team,” Gillespie said. “So, we are really excited to send 40 or 45 students out their Saturday for the first time.”

Brown said the students participating at Aikman Wildlife Adventure would probably be setting up or tearing down some of the habitats.

She said when they bring in new animals, they are in a smaller space that cannot necessarily be seen with the community and when they get bigger they move them to permanent habitat area.

Brown said they generally have around 70 nonprofit organizations they work with for volunteering services throughout the year that have needs.

She said 95 percent of the time they provide transportation to the places the students will be volunteering.

Gillespie said for some community partners they try to send students who participate in groups of 20 or 50, but not all can handle taking in that many students.

She said some have small space to work in like the Charleston Food Pantry where the space is only capable of having six to seven people in there at one time.

“While we would love to go, it just the logistics of it don’t work,” Gillespie said. “So, we are looking specifically at our partners who can accommodate a bigger group of students, so we can send students out together to do good in the world.”   

Students who will be participating will meet in the McAfee North Gym at 9:15 a.m. and depart to their assigned location from there.

Valentina Vargas can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].