Student volunteers give back to community


David Cao, Marley Majetic, Sara Babo and Adrianna Velasco, members of the student organization Volunteer Illini Projects, pose for a photo in front of their promotional booth on last year’s Quad Day.

By Courtney Stone, Staff writer

Diba Tannazi discovered the student-run organization Volunteer Illini Projects through a newsletter freshman year. Now, as a senior in LAS, she serves as the organization’s president.

Beginning its journey at the University in 1963, VIP works to build a better community in Champaign-Urbana through student volunteerism. Members promote volunteerism by donating their time and effort to programs around the area. 

The motto of the program is peace, unity and change. Members are committed to these values as they go into the community for their volunteer work.

“I wanted to be a part of a service organization and found this great opportunity to be not only a volunteer, but become a leader as well,” Tannazi said.

In her years as an active member of the organization, Tannazi has served as the hunger and homelessness project director for one year, vice president for two years and is now president of the organization. Tannazi currently oversees approximately 200 volunteers, four executive board members and 12 directors who contribute to the initiative of VIP. She also keeps the organization on target with its work in and around campus.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

“I was inspired to run for the president position because I felt so close to the directors and volunteers at VIP,” Tannazi said. “I wanted to use my leadership skills to help elevate this organization into becoming a great resource for the Champaign-Urbana community as well as other communities that need our help.”

Sara Babu, junior in LAS, and Adriana Velasco, junior in AHS, both vice presidents of VIP, have also developed their passions for volunteering through the organization. They are currently serving their second years as members of VIP. As vice presidents, they help coordinate events with directors, inspire excitement for members to participate in different events and moderate logistical issues for the organization.

The organization handles many recurring events that give members the opportunity to interact with student peers and community members. Every week, members can sign up to volunteer at UniPlace Christian Church to serve Community Dinner, and at Covenant Fellowship Church for its Jubilee Cafe meal program. VIP members also take up initiatives such as tutoring elementary students at International Prep Academy for the SOAR after school program.

Tannazi and Velasco both said they enjoy visiting the senior citizens at Prairie Winds Nursing Facility. Through this program, students are connected to community members of an older generation. They share stories with the residents and work on crafts together.

“I enjoyed spending my time with senior citizens and I wanted others to feel the same passion and happiness I felt when volunteering,” Velasco said. “This made me want to make the project better for volunteers to continue to come back and want to help others.”

Every April, the organization holds the Sunshine Jubilee. The ceremony honors the 1997 Vice President of VIP Aimee Olson, who died during her term.

An award is presented to a volunteer, director or community member who embodies the spirit and vibrancy of Olson. This event honors the hard work of the volunteers of VIP. It also invites members of the community to celebrate with the volunteers.

VIP offers students a platform to volunteer their time to build a stronger, more connected community and meet others who share the same desire to give back and create positive social change.

“The lives of us college students can be stressful, and being on campus can make us forget that there is a community of people in need around us,” Velasco said. “VIP allows us to bridge the gap between the Champaign-Urbana community and college students to make our environment a better place.” 

Through this program, students not only foster unity and change within the community but also develop friendships and gain experiences that encourage growth in their dedication to service.

Babu said her favorite part of being a VIP member is seeing the excitement in the volunteers. She likes that people are taking the time to give back to the community.

“There is so much value in even small acts of kindness,” Babu said. “VIP is about discovering your passion for service and sharing it with others. That’s why I joined and that’s why I continue to do what I do.”

[email protected]