More than 500 NIU students, faculty, staff and alumni sprang into action April 13 during NIU Cares Day, the annual event that allows Huskies to lend a helping hand to community members who need one.
“NIU Cares Day volunteers spent the day planting, painting, cleaning, sorting, assisting with events and various other tasks around the county,” Jennifer Van Ewyk, assistant director, Student Involvement and Leadership Development, said. “We sent students to nonprofit organizations and community agencies and we also tried to support some local residents who needed help with spring cleaning in their yards or garages.”
In its 13th year, NIU Cares Day is a way for members of the university to express gratitude to the DeKalb-Sycamore community by volunteering their time and talents. Armed with enthusiasm and a willingness to roll up their sleeves, students volunteered at 63 sites throughout the county, and NIU alumni, faculty and staff served as project site leaders.
“Helping students make connections to the community is one of the reasons why this event is so important to NIU,” Van Ewyk said. “We see that students feel more connected to the DeKalb community after the event and they feel that they contributed to NIU and the community in a meaningful way.”
NIU junior Estefani Rosas-Almanza first participated in the event her freshman year and has made it an annual tradition. Along with sorority sisters from Delta Gamma, Rosas-Almanza was at the Kishwaukee Family YMCA sprucing up the landscape, picking up trash and sweeping the curbs.
“I wanted to participate in NIU Cares Day to give back to the community,” Rosas-Almanza said. “I have always enjoyed volunteering and helping out and this is the perfect opportunity to do so.”
NIU sophomore Emma Boicken shared the sentiment.
“Coming to college was a hard transition for me but the NIU and DeKalb communities made me feel like family,” Boicken said. “I jumped at the opportunity to give back.”
Boicken spent the day along with fellow members of Lambda Sigma Sophomore Honor Society volunteering at the DeKalb County History Center in Sycamore.
“Many of us helped transfer artifacts from the old museum to their newly built museum across the farm,” Boicken said. “Others helped get the gardens ready for spring and we also spent time cleaning out a corn crib.”
Van Ewyk said while NIU Cares Day is an opportunity for students to experience volunteerism, it also serves as a team building activity for a variety of student organizations, fraternities and sororities.
“Something I gained was that you can’t do things all by yourself,” Boicken said. “There was no way a couple of people were going to be able to carry 175 boxes of museum artifacts by themselves; it took a whole team to do it.”
And it took a team of Huskies to make NIU Cares Day a success.
“At NIU Cares Day, it’s nice to see how the NIU community comes together to complete different tasks in various places and communities in DeKalb county,” Rosas-Almanza said.
Photographs from NIU Cares Day are available on NIU’s official Facebook page.