Volunteer opportunities around your community

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Volunteer opportunities around your community

Local organizations gather at Elgin Community College during Make A Difference Week for the Volunteer Fair on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Local organizations gather at Elgin Community College during Make A Difference Week for the Volunteer Fair on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Kristen Flojo

Local organizations gather at Elgin Community College during Make A Difference Week for the Volunteer Fair on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Kristen Flojo

Kristen Flojo

Local organizations gather at Elgin Community College during Make A Difference Week for the Volunteer Fair on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Valeria Mancera-Saavedra, Staff writer

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Volunteering allows you to not only help the community to grow in certain aspects, but also create new perspectives toward society itself.

On Wednesday, Oct. 17, Elgin Community College, during its “Make a Difference Week”, opened a space for different organizations, which offered their volunteer programs to students and members on campus.

Around 18 different organizations were present during this volunteer fair, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County whose purpose is to serve children that are in need of a positive adult role model, according to Dana Briscoe, volunteer enrollment specialist.

The children are generally kids and youths who don’t have their two parents at home, so they’re looking for another adult model to spend time with.

Their core program is a community-based mentoring program where volunteers have the opportunity to grow friendships and relationships with the youths. They meet twice a month, and this mentoring would involve different activities like taking a walk in the park, going to a museum, listening to music and many other recreative things to do.

People who wish to volunteer must be at least 18 or older and go through a process that would include a background check, interviews, references and training.

“We do all this because we want to make sure we are putting children into safe hands,” Briscoe said.

Briscoe believes that this would be a good opportunity as a volunteer because it is not only beneficial for the child to create new and healthy relationships, but it’s also rewarding for the mentors because they get to learn a lot from the kids as well.

“This is really a win-win situation,” Briscoe said. “Many of our bigs and littles end up becoming very good friends, and they form a lasting friendship, even beyond the program.”

Another organization present at the volunteer fair that works with youth was the Boy Scouts of America.

Kelly Behnke, district executive of this program and who has also been a volunteer for nine years, said that volunteering with them can go from training the boys in different areas and run different outdoor activities, to volunteer to work with marketing and advertising for their program.

“There’s a lot to be involved in,” said Maria Feitlich, marketing and communication director of Boy Scouts of America. “I think the opportunities are endless.”

The organization now allows girls into its programs, which offers a space for all families without exclusion.

Some benefits from volunteering with Boy Scouts, according to Behnke, is that it improves any skills you’d like to. For her, many aspects have changed throughout her nine years.

“I have learned so many things,” Behnke said. “Now, I do public speaking, which I never thought I would ever do in my life, and my network is also very large now. You get to know a lot of people.”

Also, this is another way for parents to get to spend time with their children, according to Feitlich, since scouting is an experience for the entire family to share.

Forest Preserve District of Kane County offers volunteer opportunities in natural areas management, environmental education, cultural preservation, public safety and recreation, according to Robb Cleave, volunteer coordinator.

Cleave states that volunteering with this organization is a great opportunity for college students since most of the outdoor activities they have can be a relief from any stress that school might be causing.

“Being outside, spending time with the environment is very relaxing,” Cleave said. “You also get to learn a lot of our natural areas.”

This organization focuses on the preservation of the environment as well as keeping it clean and integrating and manifesting the importance of recycling.

Cleave also states that it is very important that students get involved with these different organizations because it not only makes them a more experienced person but also because generally, volunteering can help students build up their resumes.

The Salvation Army is now offering an opportunity to volunteer for their food pantry in Elgin every Friday from 8 a.m.-1 p.m., which involves unloading the food from the trucks and setting everything up for the clients, according to Kaitlyn Ehler, the social service coordinator at Elgin.

“The job is very easy,” Ehler said. “As a volunteer, you can also be around answering any questions the clients might have.”

After the food pantry closes, the only thing left is cleaning.

Ehler said that some qualifications in order to work in this pantry is to have a friendly personality and smile and be professional at the same time.

According to Ehler, people in Elgin and its surrounding areas like South Elgin, Bartlett and Dundee benefit from this food pantry.

Other organizations seeking volunteers are Boys and Girls Club of Elgin, City of Elgin Parks and Recreation, Community Crisis Center, Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Field of Dreams Horse Rescue and Adoption and many more.

Whether you see it as a hobby or an opportunity to create meaningful connections with those in your community, volunteering is a worthwhile experience. Staying informed about these organizations and the opportunities they provide is important for students and community members.