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January 07, 2000 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-01-07

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 7, 2000

FRIDAYFOCUS

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'Y S

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S urrounded by bowls of freshly
chopped vegetables and steam-
ing pans o ?turkey and gravy,
Ron Foster decided he hadn't made
enough corn for Christmas dinner.
"You just never know how many are going
to be in that room," said Foster, assistant cook
at the Lansing City Rescue Mission, as he
pulled an enormous bag of donated corn from
the freezer.
Foster, along with the Nunez family - eight
children and two adults - who volunteered to
help, served the holiday dinner to about 55 home-
less men and women. Smiles and holiday greet-
ings were exchanged as the men piled the food
donated by the local Kroger and L&L Shop Rite
on paper plates.
While churches, schools and charities
across the country bustled with volunteerism
spurred by the holiday season, finding helping
hands at other times of year can be more diffi-
cult, said Bonnie Billups Jr., program director
of the Peace Neighborhood Center in Ann
Arbor.
The holiday season is an especially popular
time to show interest in community service,
Billups said. "People reflect a lot at that time of
year. They want to know how they can give back.
I wish people would feel that way 365 days per
year."
Volunteering for credit
University students have the chance to com-
mit to an entire semester of volunteer work
through two English classes that take students out
of the classroom.
English 310, offered in the fall semester and
319, offered in the winter semester, train groups
of students to write, direct and perform plays with
high school students,juvenile offenders and incar-
cerated convicts.
LSA junior Kristal Jaaskelainen took English
310 last semester and found herself working with
disadvantaged children at Southeaster High
School in Detroit. She said students began the
class concerned about what they might be getting
themselves into.
"We all went in a little leery about what would
go on," Jaaskelainen said. "But the high school
students got so excited about performing and
about being on stage. They were really happy at
the end and excited they had produced some-
thing."
Many of the high school students had never
had a chance to perform and some didn't even
know where the University was, Jaaskelainen
said, but that didn't stop them from displaying
amazing talents.
"Some of them got to explore being in
front of people for the first time," she said.
"They had so much energy and were so
funny."
Some critics might say that since the English
classes result in credit, the work students do is
not really voluntary, Jaaskelainen said, but the

key to their experience is what they do after the
class has finished and their time is no longer
measured by a grade.
"The class is definitely more of a commitment,
but it leads into other things like the Prison
Creative Arts Project," she said. "I'm going to do
another project that I won't get credit for but just
because I enjoy it."
The classes also allow students to get to know
each other and test their limits and abilities,
Jaaskelainen said.
An outpouring of service
S.O.S. Community Service Volunteer
Coordinator Donna Vigilant said while the out-
pouring of interest in community service from
November to January demonstrates a genuine
desire to help others, holiday volunteers may not
be in for the long haul.
"We're pretty flooded with phone calls of
people interested in volunteering on
Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day,"
Vigilant said. "But when people get back into
their routine with work and school, they might
drift away. It's far easier to volunteer for four
hours than four months."
But John Thomas, vice president of commu-
nications for a Washington D.C. polling com-
pany called Independent Sector, said the time
of year people volunteer matters less than
whether they are asked to participate in com-
munity service.
"During the holiday season, volunteering goes
up a bit because there are so many institutional
volunteer situations like civic clubs, church
groups and schools that think of doing a project
for the holiday season," Thomas said. "But more
important than time of year is whether people are
asked to volunteer. Ninety percent said yes when
asked."
The statistics of volunteerism
In October, the Independent Sector released
the findings of a survey conducted in 1999 in
conjunction with the Gallup polling organiza-
tion on giving and volunteering in the United
States. The results show a positive trend in

"it's far easier to
volunteer for four
hours than four
months"
- Donna Vigilant
S.O.S. Community Service Volunteer
Coordinator
Americans' involvement with volunteer work
- the highest incidence of volunteering since
the company first conducted the survey in
1988.
The bi-annual survey of 2,500 adults age 18
and older indicated that 46 percent of people ages
18-24 volunteered in some capacity during 1998.
The researchers also discovered that people gave
time to a wide range of issues, includ-
ing religious-based activities,
education, health, art and
political campaigns.
Work for political
organizations was the least
popular community service
activity among survey respon-
dents, but College Democrats President
Josh Cowen said political volunteerism is no less
important than other forms.
"Volunteers are incredibly important to politi-
cal campaigns," said Cowen, an LSA senior.
"They absolutely rely on grass roots organization,
especially in getting out the vote."
Cowen said daily work on a campaign can
challenge one's commitment and ability to perse-
vere, and that's why diligence pays off in the end.
"There's definitely a sense of victory and
accomplishment," he said. "It's like being a part
of a sports team. You have a focused goal, and
when you meet it, it's very exciting."
Depending on what kind of responsibilities
volunteers perform and where they go to do the
actual work, some organizations have a hard
time finding people interested in helping their
cause.
"Over the years we've learned
that it's tough to get people for
social welfare causes like soup
kitchens - things that are in the
inner city where some might be
fearful for their own safety,"
Thomas said.
"Once they do, though, repeat
incidence is also very high.
There is a great reward for what
they do in the camaraderie and
teamwork of that kind of volun-
teer experience," Thomas said.
Foster said volunteering at the
Lansing City Rescue Mission can
be an eye-opening experience
because of the hardship and sadness
people will see.
"The hardest part of this job is
acally seeing the devastation of
A SCHENCK/Daily drugs and alcohol on people's
lives," Foster said. "This year has
been particularly rough - we've buried three of
them."
Still, the rewards of the job overshadow the
more difficult aspects of volunteering, Foster
said.
"The best thing about working here is being
able to help all these people," he said.
LSA junior Amy Diehl said she has found
similar satisfaction in the work she does at
Dawn Farms Detox Center in Ann Arbor. Diehl
spends five hours per week at the center with
voluntary patients during their first five days
free of drugs and alcohol. Patients at the center
sometimes have a rough time when they check
in, Diehl said.
"I hang out with them, talk to them and try to
make them laugh a little bit," she said.
Diehl said one of her favorite experiences at
the center has been listening and sharing at an
Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where attendants
spoke about their experiences with addiction.
Times like those helped put everything in per-
spective, she said.
"I've done (community service) since high
school, but this is the first time I've found
something I loved," she said. "It helps me stay

focused on me. I get to not be me for a couple
hours and come back and realize what's really

DAVIU KATZ/UDily
Ann Arbor Pioneer High School sophomore Noah
Burton serves food at the First Presbyterian
Church on Washtenaw Avenue on Wednesday.
The church hosts a soup kitchen that rotates
daily to different locations in Ann Arbor.
important."
As indicated in the survey, student-aged
people do a significant amount of the volun-
teering in the United States. The Michigan
Student Assembly allocates money each year
to University student groups that organize ser-
vice projects through the MSA Community
Service Commission.
The 1999 budget will dole out about $77,000
this academic year to groups ranging from
Documentary Works, a group that is following
a Boys and Girls Club in Chicago projects, to
University-sponsored blood drives. In all, MSA
funded roughly 74 projects last semester.
Commission Chair and LSA junior Michael
Masters said a group's ability to obtain fund-
ing is "absolutely vital" to accomplish its goals.
"Many groups would not be able to function
without the support MSA provides them," Masters
said. "We take that obligation very seriously. The
money comes from student tuition, and there's a
trust there that we will handle that money respon-
sibly."
Diehl said she is surprised people don't
give more of their time to community service
organizations, considering the happiness it
can bring - both to the lives of people they
help and to their own.
"I would guess that the majority of students
don't volunteer," she said. "I don't know why
more people don't want to. If you find the right
one, it's about the best experience you can
have."
The numbers
3 56 percent of Americans volunteered in
1998, a figure equivalent to 109 million
people.
Volunteers worked a total of 19.9 billion
hours. In a job paying minimum wage plus
benefits, this time would have earned them
about $225 billion.
* 90 percent of Americans said yes to
performing community service when asked.
Americans aged 35 to 44.showed the
highest percentage of involvement with
volunteer work - 67 percent gave their time
in 1998.
N Volunteers work on a wide range of
issues, but are more likely to do work in
their own communities.
Source: The Independent Sector

DAVID RUGHKINU/Day
TOP: Business School third-year student Ryan Buell knits gloves through the University group Knit Wits
on October 9, 1998. ABOVE: Food Gatherers volunteer Bob Harris loads crates of food into a delivery
truck yesterday morning. Harris has worked for five years with the organization collecting useable food
from grocery stores and restaurants, and distributing it to those in need.

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