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Kraig Perlberg ’16 (in orange jacket) with Izaak Walton League volunteers.

Week-of-Welcome Service Experience Runs Deep

When Kraig Perlberg ’16 began his studies at St. Norbert College, little did he know a program to help get new students involved in the community would turn into a four-year, life-changing experience.

Perlberg was excited as he entered Into the Streets, a communal service project in which incoming first-year students participate during the Week-of-Welcome programming for the new class. While in high school, the Cedarburg, Wis., native volunteered on a mission trip to New Orleans to help Habitat for Humanity renovate homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina. He saw Into the Streets as a “great way to engage in service in the community and connect with new people.”

The 2016 graduate, who majored in business administration and finance, was partnered with the Brown County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, the nation’s oldest conservation group dedicated to protecting natural resources. Once his initial volunteering was complete, he stayed active with the group.

“I am passionate about the conservation of our waterways, natural resources and the wildlife that inhibit and rely on them,” Perlberg says.

Nancy Mathias (Sturzl Center for Community Service & Learning), says Into the Streets introduces students to the different pathways they can take to get involved with the community while an undergraduate. The students are connected with the community and get to volunteer with a community organization while the organization benefits by sharing their mission and passion with others and potentially recruiting new volunteers, she says.

That’s what happened with Perlberg. His initial introduction plus interest in conservation kept him coming back. When he was a sophomore, two leaders, Jodi Arndt Labs and Steve Labs, were appointed to head up the Brown County Chapter.

“Their time, innovation and energy pushed me to get more involved,” Perlberg says.

Membership increased and new family-oriented events and attractions were added, he explained. “They put in winding trails, a butterfly garden, peace labyrinth and a clean, peaceful and safe wildlife sanctuary,” Perlberg says. “They are genuine and giving people who helped me grow as a young man.”

Perlberg found time to volunteer in-between and after class. He cut grass on the walking trails and around the two ponds on site. Perlberg worked with the Labs and others to create new walking trails and put down woodchips.

With another volunteer, he project-managed the placement of a new osprey nesting platform. “The name of the Brown County Chapter is Osprey Point, and every year the osprey comes to our property to nest and lay its eggs on a 50-foot-tall post with a nesting stand on top,” Perlberg says.

During his senior year, the nesting stand fell off, so Perlberg teamed up with another volunteer to have the nest ready for when the osprey returned to the area.

A dedicated volunteer, he gathered a group of fellow St. Norbert students to help out on the college’s annual day of volunteering. “Many said they wanted to join after they saw how beautiful the property was and how peaceful it was,” Perlberg says.

Perlberg says volunteering provided a nice break from the pressure of school. “Taking the short drive to the property to volunteer, fish or just hang out with some friends provided me a peaceful place to reflect and get away from it all,” he says. “I always feel great gratitude from volunteering, especially if it is something I am passionate about. And having other individuals working toward the same cause and pour their hearts and souls into every aspect of our chapter taught me diligence, and how to take my passion for the outdoors to the next level.”

Making time for volunteering – even when students have a busy schedule – is worth it, Perlberg says.

“Volunteering isn’t for everyone, I get that, but it truly means so much to someone or an organization when you lend a helping hand,” he says. “Simply, commit yourself to this one day of service, and attempt to expand your understanding of how much of an impact you are truly making. If you’re lucky like I was, you'll find yourself in a situation that is life-changing if you allow yourself to be fully engaged.”

Feb. 7, 2017