Student volunteer makes time to help others

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Caroline Kim

Lindsay Baran, senior in applied life studies, devotes much of her time to other people. As the president of both Volunteer Illini Projects (VIP) and Link Community Development, she juggles school, work, service and a social life.

With a beaming smile, Baran said she has fun while providing her service to others.

“As a freshman, people come and they’re looking for things to do … It wasn’t really a question,” Baran said. “I came to Quad Day looking for different volunteer organizations.”

As a child, she went to soup kitchens with her mom and brother and helped serve the homeless. After serving food, they would sit down and talk with the people who came.

“When you sit down and have a conversation with them, you realize how alike you are and how many stories they have to tell too,” Baran said. “It’s not like you’re just helping them. It equalizes things a lot once you look at things from the other person’s perspective.”

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.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

During her past years at the University, Baran has devoted the most time to VIP, particularly with the Best Buddies program within the organization. Baran served as the director of the Best Buddies program, which allows students to work with people with disabilities.

Although she had no experience with people with disabilities before joining Best Buddies, she said it was such a great experience that she now plans on working with the disabled in her future career.

Baran said the United Kingdom-based Link program promotes cultural awareness for children in the community. Link connects children in the Champaign community with kids in South Africa through a pen pal program.

Baran was involved with Link when it began last year, and the University chapter is the only one in the United States.

“I meet the greatest people through these programs,” Baran said. “I made so many friends through it.”

With her busy schedule, Baran said she divides her time among other volunteer opportunities. For example, she said she spends time in homeless shelters and nursing homes.

While volunteering her time, Baran said she thinks the service is beneficial not only to those she serves but to herself as well.

“I think the value of personal relationships or even gaining a friendship just means so much and can make such a huge impact,” she said.

Baran said one of the best times she has had as a volunteer was at the Care Center, which became a weekly event for her. By her second visit, everyone knew her name and was happy to see her.

One lady wanted to show pictures to Baran, so they sat in her room for a while as the lady talked about her grandchildren and her husband.

“It was so much fun meeting someone who really wanted to share their experiences with me and really wanted to talk to me about what was important to them,” she said. “That made a huge impact on me.”

Caroline Manley, junior in LAS and vice chair of VIP, has known Baran for almost three years. Manley described Baran as outgoing, friendly and selfless.

“Lindsay is one of those people that you walk down the Quad with and she’ll know everyone,” Manley said.

Manley also said Baran can get along with everyone.

“She’s an awesome leader,” Manley said. “She has genuine care about everyone. She’s passionate about service and helping other people. She just really wants to get out there.”

Ian Baran, freshman in LAS and Baran’s brother, said she cares a lot about other people. He said he thinks she always has a positive attitude even after seeing all the hardships people have gone through.

“I think once she got into college and had all these opportunities around her, then definitely I knew and she knew this was her calling,” her brother said.

Kathy Guthrie, director of the Office of Volunteer Programs, said Baran inspires her.

“She’s very passionate about the community and issues that she tackles,” Guthrie said. “I’m excited to see how successful she is in the future just because of that passion.”

In the future, Baran wants to work with a disability rights advocacy group and possibly earn a masters or Ph.D. in disability studies or rehabilitation counseling.

“I think that it’s just very important to realize if you can help. There’s no reason not to,” Baran said. “I just think that if you can make life a little bit better or easier or happier for someone, why not?”