iHelp demonstrates the value of community on and off campus


Jeremy Hu

Volunteers at Illini Fighting Hunger’s 2017 iHelp event help package meals for those struggling with food insecurity.

By Yasmeen Ragab, Contributing writer

With about 1,700 volunteers and a combined 4,500 hours of service, Student Alumni Ambassadors kicked off iHelp, a fall community service event, on Saturday morning.

Equipped with orange t-shirts and plastic bags, students seemed excited to give back to the Champaign-Urbana community.

Since 1976, SAA has been encouraging students to become better alumni and leaders of the future by developing their professional skills and sense of community, according to its website. iHelp is one of SAA’s biggest fall events, and one of the ways they have been accomplishing this goal.

“Students at the University tend to forget that there is a whole community outside of campus that has been generous enough to let us invade their space for nine months out of the year,” said Katie Riggilo, senior in LAS and member of SAA.

The event took place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with volunteers showing up for two hour shifts throughout the day, helping out various organizations on and off campus.

Many of the volunteers said they participated in iHelp because of how easily accessible it is.

Part of its uniqueness comes from how students are the ones in charge of it and are advocating for other students to take part in it, Riggilo said.

“People don’t usually wake up at 8 a.m. on Saturday … but they are doing this because they want to, not because they are forced to,” she added.

iHelp aims to assist local community members in any task including that as simple as cleaning.

“There are so many people here who could use our help even if it’s just cleaning up their facility, they don’t have the time or the manpower to do it … so if we can help in any way, I think it is just so important,” said Riggilo.

For Jackie Ovassapian, sophomore in LAS and logistics co-director of iHelp, the event helps reinforce the sense of community that the University already provides.

“Even though there’s so many people on this campus, the University gives off a sense of a close-knit community,” Ovassapian said.

For others, iHelp is a great bonding experience with the RSOs that they are already a part of.

“I found out about iHelp my freshman year through Polish Club,” said Konrad Kroczynski, junior in Engineering. “My friends were doing (iHelp) and I decided it would be nice to give something back to the community.”

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