Schools, after-school programs and nonprofits are among the many beneficiaries of service offered by members of the St. Norbert College community.
Left, Sandy Odorzynski (Economics) and right, Nancy Mathias (Sturzl Center)
Significant benefits attend a “National Day of Doing Good”
Sandy Odorzynski (Economics) and Nancy Mathias (Sturzl Center) took Make a Difference Day as an opportunity to reflect on the value of service, both to the community and to the individuals who choose to serve. This editorial first appeared in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, and is reprinted here by kind permission.
Make a Difference Day, created by USA Weekend magazine more than two decades ago, annually inspires millions of people to volunteer on the fourth Saturday of October. Whether the service is just a few hours or dawn-to-dusk, the efforts made on the “National Day of Doing Good” are significant and felt across all corners of our local communities. Highway clean-ups, home repairs for elderly neighbors, food pantry and clothing drives, and respite assistance to weary caregivers are but a few examples.
While the good deeds performed are noteworthy, the impact of a national service day is much wider and deeper. First, the annual event is a call to action that encourages a larger pool of volunteers than might otherwise be engaged in service. Second, it inspires repeat volunteers to serve more deeply through long-term partnerships to solve real needs in their local communities. A few examples include becoming a mentor, tutor or coach. The benefits include measurable differences in children’s success in school, graduation rates and poverty reduction.
A recent white paper by Campus Compact, a national coalition of 1,200 college and university presidents committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education, argues that “… the impact of campus engagement efforts on local economies has become increasingly important as the long-term effects of the global financial downturn take hold. With so much at stake, it is vital that colleges and universities focus their efforts on creating effective partnerships that move beyond short-term fixes to create a nexus of change.”
At St. Norbert College and its Sturzl Center for Community Service & Learning, we encourage the habit of service to others. Since 2004, newly enrolled students participate in a service opportunity called Into the Streets, a day to explore their new local community through volunteer activities. More recently, we have partnered with the Green Bay Area School District and its after-school program partners, the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club, to help close the “opportunity gap.” More than 200 students assist children with homework and learning activities that boost children’s success in the classroom. With the support of the AmeriCorps VISTA program and several corporate partners, the college’s Youth to Youth programs will serve more than 1,000 children this year.
This past spring, as part of a comprehensive economic impact study, St. Norbert College surveyed its employees and students regarding their volunteer efforts in Brown County and beyond. The findings indicated that during the previous year, more than 47,000 hours of service were completed by our 615 employees, and almost 60,000 additional hours were performed by our 2,000-plus student body. Of those combined figures, nearly 93,000 service hours benefited the residents of Brown County, including children attending 31 of our local area public schools. A significant percentage of that time was spent building the long-term partnerships cited above. And the positive impacts of these relationships ripple through the local and college communities – via increased high school graduation rates; students with a deeper understanding of themselves and their world; and ultimately, a more engaged, civic-minded society.
Make a Difference Day is an opportunity to build momentum for volunteerism in our communities. If you regularly participate on this day, encourage others to join you – especially friends and family who don’t normally volunteer. Make service a habit – as a family, as a church, as a neighborhood – and consider the wealth of opportunities that exist in the community to serve throughout the year. When people make service a habit formed early in life, communities become healthier, more dynamic, and more strongly committed to shared values and the common good – places where residents build a stronger future together. It makes a difference!
For more information on how to get involved in the Green Bay Make a Difference Day, contact the Volunteer Center of Brown County, or go to http://www.volunteergb.org/.
Nov. 6, 2012