IWU First-Year Students Volunteer to Connect with Community

August 25, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Instead of sleeping through their first Saturday morning (after their first Friday night!) at college, more than 100 of Illinois Wesleyan University’s first-year students will spend part of August 27 weeding at a Girl Scout camp near Lake Bloomington, tutoring teens in a computer lab or helping to construct a house.

For the last eight years, since the implementation of Fall Festival, IWU’s first-year student orientation program, new students have been encouraged to get involved in the Bloomington-Normal community by participating in a variety of local service projects offered on the Saturday before the fall semester begins.

Derrick Tillman-Kelly of South Holland, Ill., a first-year student majoring in biology as part of IWU’s pre-medical program, is looking forward to leading games and distributing ID kits for children at a Catholic Charities Back-to-School Bash in Normal.  “I thought it sounded like the best opportunity to meet people and also spend time around kids,” he said, explaining his project choice.

Illinois Wesleyan faculty, staff and students are committed to local philanthropy, said Darcy Greder, IWU’s associate dean of student affairs and co-curricular programming.  According to Greder, the Fall Festival community service day allows new students to continue the university’s tradition of civic involvement while building an individual connection to the community.

Greder added that the service projects “are a healthy and constructive use of time” for students who may suddenly find themselves with nothing to do over the weekend but worry about Monday morning and their first college classes. 

The event continues to grow.  Two years ago, students could choose from among approximately six volunteer options.  This year, 13 service activities will accommodate up to 210 student volunteers, who will each work for approximately two hours on the project that best fits their interests, skills and schedule.

The organizations providing volunteer opportunities include the American Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Catholic Charities, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, Habitat for Humanity and the National Urban League, in addition to local organizations such as the Ecology Action Center in Normal, the McLean County Museum of History, the McLean County AIDS Task Force, and Mission Mart, a thrift store that benefits Home Sweet Home Ministries in Bloomington.

Contact: Rebecca Welzenbach, (309) 556-3181