Director gives students, community her ‘all’

Adriana DOnofrio The Daily Illini Kathy Guthrie, the Director of the Office of Volunteer Programs at the University of Illinois, sits in front of her office window, located in room 280 of the Illini Union. Guthrie helps in providing students with opportunities to interact with the community.

Adriana D’Onofrio The Daily Illini Kathy Guthrie, the Director of the Office of Volunteer Programs at the University of Illinois, sits in front of her office window, located in room 280 of the Illini Union. Guthrie helps in providing students with opportunities to interact with the community.

By Amanda Reavy

Inside the University’s Office of Volunteer Programs, award plaques for community service line the walls and bulletin boards display slogans such as “I + U = Change” and “Lend a Hand!” These catchy phrases only capture a fraction of the positive energy and enthusiasm of the person behind the desk.

Volunteering is more than just a job for Kathy Guthrie, director of the Office of Volunteer Programs – it is her passion.

“Everyone can benefit from volunteering,” she said with a smile. “There is something for everyone, no matter what you like to do.”

The Office of Volunteer Programs is funded in part by the United Way with the mission to expand and enhance student involvement in civic engagements through volunteer and service opportunities, Guthrie said.

As director, Guthrie works with local agencies to determine where there is need in the Champaign-Urbana community and how students can help. Connecting students to needed volunteer opportunities is her primary responsibility, she said.

Guthrie also advises the volunteer student organization, Volunteer Illini Projects (VIP), which has more than 3,400 members and is one of the largest registered student organizations on campus.

“She is not only a great adviser, but a great role model for myself and everyone on the VIP board,” said Caroline Manley, junior in applied life studies and vice chair for VIP. “She believes in us so much, and it really empowers us.”

Guthrie also works to promote volunteer opportunities throughout campus and market the volunteer Web site, www.cuvolunteer.org, which offers service opportunities from more than 200 agencies in Champaign County. She also coordinates activities such as last Thursday’s Volunteer Fair.

With so many responsibilities, Guthrie said she has no typical days on the job.

“One day I will be at the Humane Society with dogs and cats running around me, the next I am at a homeless shelter,” she said with a laugh.

Guthrie has always been committed to helping those in need. Growing up in the small community of Ashkum, Ill., instilled a sense of responsibility to her neighbors, she said.

“Everyone helped everyone,” she said. “I didn’t even realize it was considered volunteering.”

Guthrie attended North Central College in Naperville, Ill., and received her master’s degree in education from Illinois State University. She is currently working part-time on completing her Ph.D. in education at the University.

While a student, Guthrie participated in alternative spring breaks and devoted time to senior citizen causes. She also worked with hunger issues, volunteered at local food banks and mentored high school students.

Guthrie knew a career in volunteerism was right for her after running the Volunteer Center at Illinois State University.

“I realized it was the perfect job because I have always been very passionate about volunteering and service and love to help others reach out and do the same,” she said.

Prior to coming to the University in 2001, Guthrie worked for the University of Illinois Extension for Cass and Schuyler counties as a youth development educator.

She said she was drawn to the Office of Volunteer Programs job because of the students.

“I interviewed with students, and I was amazed at how dedicated they were to service,” she said. “They sold me (on the position).”

Working with students is the most fulfilling aspect of her job, Guthrie said. She takes pride when community agencies tell her how much they miss the students during summer.

“(Students) make such a difference,” she said. “They fill a void in this community and they are breaking the negative stereotypes people might have about young people.”

Guthrie said she is inspired by student volunteers every day. But the students in the Office of Volunteer Programs also look to Guthrie for inspiration.

Jessica Dishmon, senior in business and Office of Volunteer Programs student worker, said Guthrie not only makes time for the community but for the students as well.

“She always tries to give back and influence the lives of others,” Dishmon said. “She leads by example.”

Guthrie said her personal philosophy is to always give 110 percent.

“It is important to give your time to others, whether it is just having a conversation with someone or volunteering,” she said. “Whatever I do, I try to give it my all and make the most of each day.”