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Volunteers needed for service opportunities in October

Reporter

Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Updated: Sunday, December 15, 2013 11:12

Volunteering

Photo by Joe Shearer/ The Gateway

Fall break is just around the corner, and while many students will take the time off for leisure or rest, over 800 are estimated to spend part of their break contributing to the greater Omaha area.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Office of Civic and Social Responsibility (CSR) is sponsoring the annual Three Days of Service event, where Omaha and Council Bluffs college and high school students will perform various acts of volunteerism for local nonprofit organizations Oct. 19, 21 and 22.

The program is in its ninth year. With over 700 students pitching in last year, CSR’s Three Days has shown real staying power as being a vital resource of service workers in the Omaha area. The UNO-based event will also bring in students from Metropolitan Community College, North High School and Lewis Central High School in Council Bluffs, with other area high schools scheduled to register soon.

“Three Days of Service has established itself throughout the nonprofit community,” said Julie Smith, CSR service project coordinator. “We’ve been doing it so long, people depend on us and save jobs for us to do.”

Starting around 8 a.m. each day, students gather at UNO’s Milo Bail Student Center to check in and take a bus to one of the 20-plus nonprofit organizations partnered with CSR. From demolishing Habitat for Humanity rehab houses to sewing blankets for foster children at Project Harmony, the Three Days of Service volunteers will complete a number of charitable tasks into the afternoon, with lunch provided, each service day. A similar series of service work days occur during Seven Days of Service in the Spring semester.

While UNO’s CSR already nets a hefty load of volunteers, they are always looking for ways to grow and further develop their program.

To provide students who may be unfamiliar with volunteering a look into service work, UNO’s CSR is hosting a volunteer fair in the Milo Bail Student Center’s Nebraska Room on Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is a primer that will connect students with representatives of over 20 nonprofits and show them the various benefits volunteering can have on communities and individuals.

CSR Program Associate Andrea Cain said not all volunteer work is the same and that there are many different causes out there. The volunteer fair will provide a comprehensive look at Omaha’s various charitable organizations.

“The [students] get an opportunity to learn about some nonprofits in Omaha and learn how they serve the community,” Cain said. “This exposure, we hope, will lead volunteers to become more aware of social issues and possibly volunteer further at the organizations we partner with or others with a similar mission.”

Cain hopes UNO and the Office of Civic and Social Responsibility can influence new waves of future volunteers, as it benefits the city, other people’s lives and the individual.

“The volunteers we have are able to complete projects that might otherwise not get done for many years,” Cain said. “[Volunteering] also leads to greater awareness of the social issues and the community and how they are being addressed.”

UNO’s CSR makes tracking service hours easy for students, too, thanks to the new MavSync system on the UNO website. Upon checking in at Three Days of Service, or any other University-sponsored volunteer event, students swipe their MavCards to get credit and can later track or print their work through the website.

“It is an important tool not only because of its ease of use, but also because it is an important thing to add to a resume,” Cain said. ”Many large businesses are encouraging their employees to volunteer monetarily or with their time to organizations in their community. The students also have opportunities through volunteering to network and build relationships, and even gain employment, through these partnering organizations.”

There are several benefits to volunteering, and the impact it has on the Omaha area and its communities is evident. With all of the aforementioned factors, though, Smith says that at the base of it all is simple human kindness.

“At the end of the day, it just feels good to help other people out,” Smith said.

To apply to volunteer or for more information about the volunteer fair and Three Days of Service, visit unomaha.edu/serve or call the Office of Civic and Social Responsibility at 402-554-4083.

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