2017 Day of Service

students cleaning up trash on a beach

Volunteer opportunities included cleaning up beaches, welcoming guests to UIC Center for Literacy workshops and more. ­(Photo: Troy Heinzeroth)

UIC community members spent their Saturday giving back during the annual UIC Day of Service.

Organized by Student Leadership Development and Volunteer Services (SLDVS), the event has given UIC students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members the opportunity to volunteer at nonprofits, community organizations and other sites across the Chicago area for the past eight years. On April 8, 115 volunteers spent more than 340 hours volunteering for 12 organizations.

“Our goal as a university is to be a responsible neighbor to the city that we’re in,” said Spencer Long, associate director of SLDVS. “This is one way we continue to give back.”

“University-wide, it’s important to participate,” said Michael Sewall, a master’s student in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs who coordinated volunteer efforts at Cornerstone Community Outreach. The nonprofit, located in the Uptown area, provides food, clothes and shelter for the homeless and underserved in Chicago.

“I think it can add a lot to the education [students] get here to complement things that they’re learning inside of the classroom,” he said.

Members of the Urban Planning and Policy Student Association, which Sewall leads as president, and other participants cooked meals and sorted through clothing donations at the site.

“For us personally, coming from an urban planning program, it was really cool to see what Cornerstone Community Outreach does in terms of helping provide basic services that people need like shelter, food and clothing, things that they aren’t getting,” Sewall said. “Having the ability to see some of the work being done on the ground by amazing volunteers in the city was really a great experience.”

Students and alumni from UIC Fraternity & Sorority Life organizations also took part in the tradition.

“We have a lot of fun with it,” said Michelle Sanchez, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. For the past two years, her co-educational fraternity, Alpha Psi Lambda, cleaned Chicago beaches for the Alliance of the Great Lakes.

“We want to do our part because we’re living on this Earth and we need to take care of it, keep it clean and keep it safe,” said Sanchez, the fraternity’s community service chair.

The Day of Service strengthens ties between UIC and people who live in the surrounding areas, she said.

“There were families, even kids, and we were all working as a team, keeping track of what we found,” she said. “It’s nice to pay it forward.”

At the UIC Center for Literacy, volunteer Diamond Harris welcomed people to campus and guided them to workshops that focused on improving adult literacy instruction with the Omicron Beta chapter of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority.

“I learned that there’s a world out there that’s bigger than myself,” said Harris, a junior in psychology.

She plans to pitch in next year, too.

“I enjoyed helping people,” she said.

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