Saturday I participated in Panther Service Day, which is an annual event put on by the Civic Engagement and Volunteerism Office here on campus. I believe this is my second or third time doing this event. Volunteers serve at several different sites off campus and some on campus as well. Transportation is provided to off-campus sites. Several hundred students volunteer on Panther Service Day every year to help better Charleston and surrounding communities. An added bonus is that the Civic Engagement and Volunteerism office provides free t-shirts for volunteers. Who doesn’t love free EIU gear?
I volunteered at a neighboring town called Ashmore. The population in Ashmore is around 785 people. They have an entirely volunteer-staffed fire department, with a good-sized firehouse and a decent number of firetrucks in the garage. There were about 20 volunteers that were there to help the Ashmore community. The volunteers split into groups doing different assignments. For example, some did paperwork and others helped clean the fire trucks. I was assigned with one of my friends to go pick up litter around the town. The nice part about that was that we got to use a gator to help us get around town faster. A gator is like a golf cart with a bigger engine. We drove along one of the main roads in town and stopped every time we saw litter. After we were done with that road we went along the other roads as well.
As I picked up litter, I saw lots of people drive past and give me a friendly wave. That is one of my favorite things about small towns where everyone knows everyone. Even if they do not know you they still give you a wave, which makes me feel like they are welcoming me. Throughout the few hours that I volunteered, my friend and I picked up about two garbage bags full of litter. The majority was beer cans and glass bottles.
Why should you volunteer? We are Panthers and we live in Charleston during the school year. It is our job as a community to help Charleston and surrounding areas like Ashmore make the world a better place. Volunteering your time shows that you care about what goes on in the communities. Some people do not like to volunteer because they may believe that there is no need or they don’t want to get involved. I think everybody who goes to Eastern should volunteer at least once while they are a student here. We are not just part of the university, we are a big part of the surrounding communities as well. They appreciate that we care and are committed to helping them. The shirt I received for volunteering says it all, “Real Panthers Volunteer.”
Kate Rehwinkel is a junior management major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]