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Volunteer opportunities abound for NIU students

September 13, 2010

Raking on NIU Cares DayNIU is never short on volunteers or projects to keep them busy.

Every spring and fall, hundreds of students donate time at animal shelters, community food pantries, nursing homes and schools, and this year should be no different.

“Students who volunteer and expect nothing in return are hardcore volunteers,” said Becky Harlow, assistant director of Student Involvement and Leadership Development. “Usually, they have done it before, and they like doing it.”

While some students new to NIU worry about finding time in their busy schedule for volunteer work, it’s usually not a problem, Harlow said. Volunteer opportunities abound on the NIU campus and in the communities of DeKalb and Sycamore. Time commitments can range from a couple of hours to a couple of days.

A list of upcoming volunteer opportunities can be found on the Huskie Paws for a Cause website. Each fall, from 150 to 200 students turn to Huskie Paws for a Cause for independent volunteering opportunities. There, they find campus activities that require no traveling and flexible schedules.

Another place students can turn to feed their giving hearts is the coed Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. Members are required to complete 20 hours of volunteer service each semester.

“Students are willing to do anything. Some pack boxes that are shipped to servicemen and women,” said Harlow, who advises the fraternity. “Some become involved in the Best Buddies program and spend time with people with special needs. They take them to ball games or movies.”

Blowing leaves on NIU Cares DayA list of ongoing volunteer opportunities is available online. It is filled with information on agencies constantly in need of helping hands, including the American Red Cross, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, DeKalb County Hospice and the Salvation Army.

More chances for outdoor volunteering can be found at

Christine Lagattolla, a graduate assistant with Outdoor Adventures, said she is always looking for volunteers to clean up lakes, restore hiking trails and pick up litter. To register, stop by the Outing Centre located in the Student Recreation Center.

“On Sept. 25, we’re taking canoes and volunteers to pick up garbage along the shoreline of Lake Shabbona. In previous years, we have pulled out old tires from it,” Lagattolla said. “Also, on Oct. 30, we are looking for volunteers to collect seeds of northern Illinois plants in the Afton Forest Preserve to help the return of its native prairie.”

Volunteers will be needed throughout the school year to help with day-long and overnight outdoor conservation projects such as an Alternative Break with the American Hiking Society over winter break. For details, call Lagattolla at (815) 753-9418 or e-mail [email protected].

by Gerard Dziuba