More than 1,200 NIU students were up with the sun Saturday morning, which was appropriate since they spent the day spreading sunshine across DeKalb County as part of the annual NIU Cares Day.
The early start was worth it, said Kaitlyn Fritz, a member of the Sigma Lambda Sigma service sorority, which spent the morning scrubbing floors at the First United Unitarian Church in DeKalb. “It was really cool to see how many people cared about the community and wanted to help out,” Fritz said.
The students, who checked in at the Duke Ellington Ball Room at 7:30 a.m., were bused across the county (thanks to Huskie Buses provided by the NIU Student Association) to more than 105 work sites. They spent the morning assisting churches, schools, museums, municipalities and not-for-profit organizations and individuals in need across the county. They raked, dug, painted, washed windows, cleaned, planted and more. (Check out this album of photos from the day on Facebook.)
Some groups even sang.
“The Huskie Hunks, an a capella group, cleaned up the yard at the Doorstep Project (an organization that helps international students get settled) and, after they got done working, they gave an impromptu performance for the staff, which was having a workshop,” said Lynn Schmitz, an assistant director at NIU Student Involvement and Leadership Development. Schmitz was one of 35 NIU staff members who helped organize the day and keep things running smoothly.
In addition to singers, the day drew teams from Greek organizations, honor societies, clubs, religious organizations and living-learning communities. While those groups accounted for most participants, there also were many students not affiliated with any particular group that came out to help. Of those, about 25 assisted with a walk-a-thon for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in DeKalb’s Hopkins Park. They set up the course, handed out water and helped serve lunch.
“It was a wonderful day. We had some of the most wonderful groups of students working in the community,” Schmitz said. “They made a tremendous impact, especially when you consider that when they were helping out an organization, they were indirectly serving everyone that organization helps.”
The day was tremendously rewarding, not just for those who helped, but for the students too, said Jill Zambito, director of SILD.
“It’s there community too, and it’s wonderful to see them giving back,” Zambito said. “Their efforts were a great example of service leadership, which is really the most important kind of leadership.”
Based upon Twitter and Instagram traffic from the day, the students had a good time while helping out and said that the experience will stay with them – in more ways than one.
“My whole body hurts,” tweeted Rachel Gorsuch, an NIU student who helped out at a DeKalb Community Gardens site, “but it was worth it.”