Many people have had volunteer experience at some point in their lives. For some, it may have been a mandatory experience for a class or a club in high school. For others, it may have been for a church or an organization in their community that they wanted to support in their free time. However, in the college world, reaching out, gaining experience and networking are essential.
If you’ve ever wanted to get involved in the Greensboro community but don’t know how or where to start, the Office of Leadership and Service-Learning (OLSL) has your back. On Wednesday more than 50 community organizations were able to attend the 2017 Volunteer and Service-Learning Fair in the Cone Ballroom of the Elliott University Center.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., multitudes of students filed through the pathway of tables, surrounded by volunteer and internship opportunities. Whether they were in a group or flying solo, students were given free rein to wander as they pleased.
As an incentive to meet and connect with the representatives managing each organization’s table, everyone who entered the fair was given a raffle ticket of sorts. For each representative a student talked to, they would write down the name of the organization on the back of their ticket and receive a sticker. If they talked to at least five representatives from five different tables and got five stickers, they could enter to win a free gift basket.
When the students entered the Cone Ballroom, friendly faces shined all over the room. No matter where you looked, members and volunteers at every table were welcoming and open to sharing their organization’s mission, answering any question to the best of their ability and learning more about the students interested in volunteering or interning with them.
Non-profit organizations from Guilford County and beyond were on the lookout for willing, dedicated volunteers to help promote their vision, reach their goals and create working relationships with the student body of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
There was a diverse mixture of organizations in attendance that focused on different aspects of the community. Some, like the Weatherspoon Art Museum, were simply looking for volunteers to guide people to bathrooms or, like the Triad Goodwill, were searching for people to help at their retail store or donation center. Others dealt with more difficult parts of the community.
One table featured candy-filled syringes and a tri-fold board proclaiming the name Community Home Care and Hospice. Dana Lee, a volunteer coordinator at the organization, began speaking about her booth by asking those around her, “Do you know what hospice is?” Knowing that most people have assumptions about what hospice is, Lee explained to make sure her listeners understood. Hospice, she said, was for people diagnosed with a terminal illness who have a life expectancy of six months or less. Community Home Care and Hospice, she said, focuses on keeping their patients comfortable, supported and well cared for.
Lee was looking for volunteers to spend time with the patients, whether it was sitting with them, watching TV, reading to them or just holding their hand. Experience working with hospice patients wasn’t a requirement to volunteer, but compassion and a love for others was highly recommended.
Another tri-fold poster stood right next door to Community Home Care and Hospice, but focused on helping families in the Guilford County area with children who were born with chronic illnesses, prematurity or developmental disabilities. Sarah Pritchard, the program development and fundraising assistant of the Family Support Network of Central North Carolina, said that as many babies are born premature, they have a higher risk of contracting sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and that parents need to learn more about what their child is dealing with and how to plan for their future.
While the Family Support Network mostly deals with educating and supporting parents, students have the opportunity to coordinate social events or simply volunteer their time to help out at the events. As a non-profit that doesn’t charge the families in the community for events and resources, they emphasized that any time given is appreciated.
Towards the other end of the room, stood a table and a poster promoting the Senior Resources of Guilford.
Senior Resources of Guilford is a non-profit that focuses on supporting seniors in living an independent lifestyle while having resources through volunteers driving them to medical appointments and staying connected with the community through different activities. Manning the table was Senior Resources of Guilford program coordinator, social worker and UNCG alum, Audrey McLaughlin, who commented that she understood the mindset of many organizations attending the fair.
“Everyone has that common goal of bettering their community in any way possible,” said McLaughlin.
Although the dozens of organizations at the Volunteer and Service-Learning Fair offered differing positions and opportunities, they all had one thing in common: they need volunteers. The experience of offering one’s time to volunteer, it seemed, could make a difference in changing the lives of others.