UI students to lend a hand, spread hope around C-U

Students will have the opportunity to get involved this Saturday at the Office of Volunteer Program’s “Make a Difference Day.”

The event will take place in the Champaign-Urbana community and involves students in a multitude of service projects.

Vaneitta Goines, program advisor for the Office of Volunteer Programs, or OVP, said Make a Difference Day is a national day of service to encourage first-time volunteers to get involved in service.

“If they get out and do something on this one day, even if it’s something simple and quick, it may inspire them to continue to give and get involved in the future,” Goines said.

In the ten years since the University first started participating, it has collaborated with community agencies to create food and supply drives.

At last year’s event, the OVP created an opportunity for Illinois and Ohio students to serve together at Illinois agencies; over 160 Ohio State University students came to help out.

This year, the OVP wanted to try something new. Goines said the OVP wants to focus on bringing University students closer by serving the C-U community together.

“This year, we chose to do a service day because there are so many new students on campus and wanted to give them the opportunity to be aware that even though Champaign looks very tranquil and friendly, there are some challenges that people face here and that (students) can do something about that,” Goines said.

A variety of project opportunities will be held throughout the day at different locations, whether students want to be involved hands-on or are interested in doing research for children.

One of the biggest projects of the day is the Meals of Hope project. Students will be working with Meals of Hope Champaign-Urbana to provide 54,000 meals through the Eastern Illinois Food Bank. Students will be unloading trucks with food materials and then pack the meals.

Shikhank Sharma, project leader of Make a Difference Day and student intern at the OVP, said students really can make a difference by helping out in the community in any way they can.

Goines and Sharma expect this year’s event to not only be about the community but also about the student volunteers and their personal experience on this day.

“(I expect) a really successful volunteer experience for all of the volunteers but also that all of the volunteers get a sense that Champaign has a lot of different issues that we as students can interact with and help solve,” Sharma said. “We want to work not just at these one time events but also to sustainably have students volunteer throughout their undergrad or grad life careers.”

Jia Chen, student volunteer and senior in Business, said that as an international student, she wants to do some volunteer work to help her learn more about the local people and to adapt to American life.

“Actually, I don’t think through a single day or event, ‘Can I really make a difference?’” Chen said. “We have so many hungry or homeless people in the community who need help and all I can do is make the most of my spare time to raise money or do anything I can to help them. I hope in the end of my semester, these people can be better off because of me.”

To sign up for an event happening on Make a Difference Day, go to union.illinois.edu/ovp to register.