The Pitt News

Students peruse winter community service options

Students+gather+around+tables+in+the+William+Pitt+Union+on+Wednesday+to+learn+about+and+sign+up+for+volunteer+activities+during+a+PittServes+volunteer+fair.++Valkyrie+Speaker+%7C+Staff+Photographer+
Students gather around tables in the William Pitt Union on Wednesday to learn about and sign up for volunteer activities during a PittServes volunteer fair.  Valkyrie Speaker | Staff Photographer

Students gather around tables in the William Pitt Union on Wednesday to learn about and sign up for volunteer activities during a PittServes volunteer fair. Valkyrie Speaker | Staff Photographer

Students gather around tables in the William Pitt Union on Wednesday to learn about and sign up for volunteer activities during a PittServes volunteer fair. Valkyrie Speaker | Staff Photographer

By Elli Warsh / Staff Writer

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Anxious to recruit members for her new service club, Raechel Heil stood at her volunteer fair booth with flyers and an ambitious smile.

Students congregated at the booths of 72 organizations around Pittsburgh for PittServes’ Winter Volunteer Fair. In celebration of January as the Global Month of Service, PittServes hosted the event Wednesday afternoon in the William Pitt Union Ballroom and Assembly Room, where nonprofits and student-run service clubs spoke to potential volunteers about their missions.

At a table near the back of the Assembly Room, sophomore Raechel Heil, the president of the new Special Olympics of Pennsylvania Young Athletes Program, was telling students about her organization in the hopes of building its reach.

Heil’s club plays games on Saturday morning’s with children with disabilities, 2 to 7 years old, to help hone their interpersonal skills.

“We can really see how we help them gain both motor and social skills,” Heil said.

PittServes Director Misti J. McKeehen said the fair is meant to extend Pitt’s involvement — both around campus and beyond.

“PittServes is focused on enhancing the culture of service at the University of Pittsburgh and connecting students with the broader Pittsburgh community and the communities of the world,” McKeehen said.

Organizations that took advantage of Pitt’s potential volunteer pool included the Ronald McDonald House Charities, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, the Pitt Pantry and student service clubs.

Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity, focuses on leadership development in addition to community service, according to senior psychology and sociology major Alyssa Zolkiewicz. Zolkiewicz, who was at the fair seeking potential new brothers and sisters, said the best work she’s done through the fraternity was with Global Links, a program that cleans and recycles medical supplies to send overseas.

“One time I spent a whole day fixing up crutches, which sounds pretty boring, but I could really see that I was making an impact worldwide,” Zolkiewicz said.

Senior Abria-Dawn Kanu said she ended up with a lot of free time this semester, but doesn’t want to take it easy.

“I want to find something to fill my time with and carry that over until after I graduate, when I take a gap year before continuing my education,” Kanu, an emergency medicine student said.

For Kanu, volunteering isn’t just something to bolster her schedule. She participated in Pitt’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service last year.

The MLK Day of Service, which will be this Monday, offers students the opportunity to honor the late activist by pitching in around the city. Last year, Kanu created a garden with underprivileged children in the area.

“We made pots for flowers out of old tires and planted seeds in this huge, empty field,” she said. “The children had such a great time and so did we.”

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that partners with existing organizations to benefit communities, volunteers are 27 percent more likely to get job offers than non-volunteers.

McKeehen said she wants students to fill out their resumés, but also maximize Pitt’s potential to have an impact on the city through the work they do as volunteers.

“We hope that students will serve not only for themselves, but for the community benefit that we as a University can bring to our region,” McKeehen said.

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Students peruse winter community service options