Local organizations provide volunteer opportunities

Volunteers have helped construct homes with Habitat for Humanity throughout Corvallis.

Melinda Myers, News Contributor

Community service offers students meaningful ways to give back.

Although campus is relatively quiet during the break, the holiday season is awash in lights, gifts and good will. Traditions for many involve giving back to the community during this time. The Oregon State University community offers various volunteer outlets that students can participate in, despite heavy workloads and shifting schedules.

On campus, the Center for Civic Engagement provides guidance in finding a volunteer opportunity for OSU students. Erin McIlraith, the center’s civic engagement coordinator, works with students to find a good fit.

“For many of them, students can choose their involvement level,” McIlraith said. “For example, a men’s or women’s cold weather shelter, you could work a couple times or be a regular and go every week.”

According to McIlraith, many volunteer opportunities can turn into internships.

Selecting the volunteer opportunity that is a perfect fit can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start looking, according to McIlraith, but the CCE works with students one-on-one to find the right position.

“You can come to the CCE, we’ll sit you down and find the right place for you,” McIlraith said.

CCE works with a number of local organizations, including the Corvallis-Benton county library and Habitat for Humanity. According to their website, Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that provides shelter, home repairs and disaster relief for families in need.

Habitat for Humanity has two locations near OSU—one in Corvallis, on Philomath Boulevard and one in Albany. Kathy Ballard, the office manager for the Corvallislocation, has worked with the organization for a little over a year.

“I used to do volunteer work before this position and I wanted to find a place that was meaningful,” Ballard said. “It’s a great job.”

According to Ballard, students can get involved in a number of ways, one being working on current construction sites where volunteer teams are building a home with a partner family. Students can join construction teams regularly or when they have time. Build days are usually scheduled for Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Ballard added.

Other volunteer programs within Habitat for Humanity include home repairs for low-income, elderly, disabled or veteran families.

“This program is for homeowners who have critical home repairs, such as a roof with a leak or if they need a wheelchair ramp installed,” Ballard said.

Repair dates depend on the needs of the communities, but all volunteers get a weekly schedule of repair dates, times and locations, according to Ballard.

Additionally, if construction is not an interest, students can work in the Habitat for Humanity Restore, according to Ballard. This store accepts donations and recycles the earnings back into the yearly budget.

Another opportunity is volunteering at the ReStore. The ReStore accepts donations and resells the items, which provides funding for both the new home construction and home repair programs, according to Ballard. “Volunteering at the Restore is extremely flexible; the store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday,” Ballard said. “You can come in for one hour, two hours, six, whatever time you have available.”

The Corvallis-Benton County Public library also offers opportunities for students to give back to their community, according to Felicia Uhden, the deputy director for Access and Administration Services. Last year, over 259 volunteers gave over 15,000+ hours of service, an equivalent of more than seven full-time employees.

“We generally ask for a six-month commitment,” Uhden said in an email. “Some jobs are a weekly two-hour shift during the library’s open hours and others are more flexible.”

According to Uhden, the Friends of the Library are a volunteer group whose work benefits the Library by supporting things such as the Lucky Day collection and summer reading program. The Lucky Day program is a collection of available copies of hot new books and videos and STEAM kits for children.

“We have also collaborated with OSU organizations for a variety of projects. Some student groups have done programs for us, others have assisted with Maker activities and our LibLab videos and one group even made decorations for our annual volunteer recognition event,” Uhden said via email. “We have a long-running partnership with OSU Athletics for programs. OSU student athletes have been joining us in the summer since 2014 for Bookmobile and the Beavs.”

The library is currently searching for a volunteer coordinator, according to Uhden. Prospective volunteers can look to the new year for updates.

According to McIlraith, if interests shift more towards the environment and sustainability, Corvallis is home to a handful of environmentally focused organizations as well.

“The Corvallis Sustainability Coalition is another great place. It makes the community more sustainable in a big-picture kind of way,” McIlraith said. “They look at what our housing sustainability is, what’s our shopping sustainability. It’s a multilevel approach.”

Students can work in different areas that reflect their interests such as energy or water sustainability, according to McIlraith.

McIlraith is excited about the volunteer opportunities ahead in the OSU community, as well as the culture it creates around campus.

“What is unique about OSU is that we serve our community and we recognize that students are a part of that,” McIlraith said. “So we have projects that benefits students, as well as our community. We take care of the OSU community in a holistic way.”

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