Volunteering 101: Giving back
 when there’s not much to give


Shane Tolentino

Volunteering 101: Giving back
 when there’s not much to give

By Miranda Manier

Between class schedules, part-time jobs and cash-strapped wallets, college students do not have time or money to offer organizations asking for volunteers. When trying to find ways to give back to their communities, they might feel like they do not have a lot of options.

According to Co-Founder of the Chicago Volunteer Expo Sarah Anderson, there are plenty of opportunities for college students to get involved in low-commitment volunteering positions. Some of these opportunities can be found at the Chicago Volunteer Expo, which will be held Feb. 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive.

The Expo began seven years ago as a way for people to get connected with organizations affiliated with causes they are passionate about and get to know those causes on a personal level. 

Anderson added that college students can also use skills they learn in school to help organizations aligned with  their passions. 

“Sometimes people think about volunteering… physical labor,” Anderson said. “But these organizations need help with their social media [and their] graphics and marketing, skills that students use every day that could be really beneficial for these small organizations that are trying to do everything on a shoestring budget.” 

Anderson explained that certain volunteering opportunities do not require large time commitments or monetary donations, and  could be ideal for college students.

For example, the nonprofit Cardz for Kidz—a Chicago Volunteer Expo participant that crowdsources cards to send to pediatric patients all over the world—has basic rules for what cards should and should not include. Anyone can volunteer to gather remotely to create a variety of cards in different languages. The cards are then sent to Cardz for Kidz and distributed internationally. 

Lakeview Pantry, 3945 N. Sheridan Road, does require certain time commitments from its volunteers, including an orientation session, but it also accepts donations such as canned goods. Overall, they are looking for items that college students who are on a budget might be able to afford to donate, compared to items with larger price tags. 

According to Lakeview Pantry’s Volunteer Program Coordinator Kandis Howard, volunteering can be a good way for college students to grow personally and professionally and help them gain perspective on walks of life they may not be exposed to.

“It’s important for college students to see the world from the perspective of serving people,” she said. “[Volunteering is] a good opportunity to get to know all different kinds of people in the community.” 

Volunteering can also encourage college students to get out of their comfort zones, Anderson said.

“It helps build community,” she said. “We get kind of isolated in our day-to-day paths, but by volunteering, it helps you find a community that you’re interested in being a part of and really connect with those people on a personal level.” 

Senior television major Tyler Newman volunteers in the video production department at his church. Newman enjoys volunteering because he is able to do what he is passionate about while giving back. Though he finds the time crunch difficult, he said it is worth it.

“Volunteering is important,” Newman said. “When you take time to give back to an organization that matters to you, that helps that organization stay afloat so it can help impact people like it has impacted you.”