‘Make a Difference’ connects students to community

By Kiran Sood

In an effort to aid people in the Champaign-Urbana community, registered student organizations and students everywhere on campus are coming together to raise money and awareness. The Make A Difference Drive, sponsored by the Office of Volunteer Programs, began Monday and will last until Oct. 21. The event will include donation and outreach drives to provide support for human service agencies in Champaign County.

Among the agencies taking part in this drive include: Crisis Nursery, the TIMES Center, Center for Women in Transition, Champaign County Nursing Home, Restoration Urban Ministries, Community Day Care, Family Preservation Program, St. Jude Catholic Worker House, Swann Special Care Center, and The Pavilion.

Allison Castillo, junior in LAS and student worker at the Office of Volunteer Programs, said the drive allows students to take part in helping less fortunate community members.

“During the drive we hope to collect items such as toiletries, school supplies and new socks and underwear to donate to those agencies,” Castillo said. “Drop off boxes will be posted at a variety of University affiliated organizations around campus. Additionally, individuals are welcome to drop off any donations at our office in 277 Illini Union.”

Castillo said that as part of the drive, Outreach Days have been set up to provide both organizations and individuals with the opportunity to volunteer directly with some of the agencies. By reaching out on these days, students can help connect the campus to the community, Castillo said.

Stu Schaff, senior in Business and student affairs intern at the Office of Volunteer Programs, said 10 CU human services agencies are taking part in the drive, and that it is the biggest part of the effort.

Katie Fredericks, senior in ALS and student employee at the Office of Volunteer Programs, helped plan the Make A Difference Drive.

“This year, 24 locations around campus are hosting drop off boxes for Make A Difference Drive,” Fredericks said. “We also have numerous registered student organizations, residence halls and Greek houses involved in the Make A Difference Drive competition.”

She said that each item given to the drive is assigned a point total, and the organization with the most points will receive a prize.

“Whichever RSO, residence hall or Greek house donates the most items will win a free pizza party at Papa Del’s,” Fredericks said. “Also this year, we will add points to their score if they volunteer at one of the agencies we’re giving to.”

There are three Outreach Service Days where students can go and volunteer at the agencies. They can sign up to volunteer on Oct.15 during the morning or afternoon, Oct. 17 after 5 pm, or Oct. 18 after 5 pm, she said. Schaff said that in addition to the Outreach Days, there would be a bowling event on Oct. 15 to allow volunteers to meet and socialize in a fun environment.

Arpit Agrawal, sophomore in LAS, has recently begun volunteering at Carle Foundation Hospital in the pediatrics division. He heard about the volunteer program through one of his classes and through his involvement with the Volunteer Illini Projects. He said that he thought it seemed like an interesting way to get involved.

“It is so amazing to work with the kids,” Agrawal said. “You can just see their whole faces light up when they see us. We depend so much on the community that it is very important to me to be able to give back what I can.”

Agrawal said that each week he looks forward to working with the children. Some of his duties include setting up plates for them at mealtimes and tucking them into bed.

“It’s truly amazing,” he said. “In such a small amount of time, I really feel like I have done something worthwhile.”