Knox Students Explore Community Service Opportunities
March 05, 2013
by Veronica Gockenbach ‘14
Knox College recently hosted Celebrate Service, a volunteer fair featuring a collaboration of student-led community service groups and Galesburg community organizations. Students were invited to learn more about what different groups do for the community, as well as explore their own interests in volunteering.
Knox junior GraceAnne Roach, a member of the Peace Corps Preparatory program and Delta Delta Delta sorority, signed up for several organizations during the February 26 event. One was Blessings in a Backpack. That group, which includes Knox students and members of a local church, raises money and provides food for about 160 Galesburg schoolchildren who might otherwise have little to eat on weekends.
"I'm interested in the (Knox Prairie Community) Kitchen, but definitely interested in Blessings in a Backpack as well," said Roach, who is from Mount Prospect, Illinois. "I'm an education major, so I'd really like to see something going back to the students."
Each term, Knox hosts a day of service, a tradition established by President Teresa Amott in the fall of 2011. Because of the challenges of winter weather, Amott decided to host this term's day of service indoors. Karrie Heartlein, director of government and community relations at Knox, said that hosting Celebrate Service on campus is a great way for organizations and potential volunteers to connect.
"It's useful for the community organizations to see the hunger that our students have to be a part of the community," added Heartlein. "(Because of bad weather,) it's hard for students to get into the community, so today we brought the community to Knox."
The service fair featured long-standing organizations, as well as newer groups trying to gain greater recognition for their programs. One such group is Eye-to-Eye, a student mentoring program that helps schoolchildren with learning disabilities express themselves through art projects. Most of the Knox mentors also have learning disabilities, which helps them connect with the younger students.
Club president Nicola Liss, a junior from Indianapolis, Indiana, who is majoring in history, is trying to bring attention to the learning-disabled community.
Many learning-disabled students feel inadequate, Liss said. "And that's what we want to help prevent, teach them strategies to learn, and bring attention (to these issues) so that it doesn't keep happening."
The fair also featured the volunteer-driven Knox Prairie Community Kitchen, which serves free meals twice a month at Galesburg's Central Congregational Church.
Rosie Worthen, a 2011 Knox graduate and KPCK volunteer, said the organization works to debunk the stereotype of a "soup kitchen" by serving full, nutritious meals restaurant-style, allowing community members to relax and talk with one another.
The group has always had a great relationship with Knox students, Worthen said.
"We had a dinner the Thursday before finals and we still had Knox students show up to volunteer," she said. "Every new Knox volunteer that comes through has a good time and says they want to come back."
Worthen moved from her hometown in Montana to continue working with KPCK. She says the relationships formed with Knox volunteers and regular clients over the last couple years have been invaluable.
"It's a new home for me," she said.
Heartlein added, "I remember when I was working there: A woman came up to me and she said, ‘Thank you so much for doing this, because this is going out to dinner for me.' She was isolated. Coming to the kitchen was a way to go out, talk with people, and a way for her to feel normal again."
Celebrate Service featured refreshments, raffle tickets, and door prizes for visitors.
Knox first-year student Charlie Harned, who is from Webster Groves, Missouri, was pleased with the scope of community interest. "I didn't expect to see so many things here," he said. "It's nice to see so many organizations involved."
Organizations at Celebrate Service included:
Discovery Depot, Carl Sandburg Literacy Coalition, Galesburg Public Library, Orpheum Theatre, Galesburg Civic Art Center, Knox County Housing Neighborhood, Nielson School Reading Buddies, Knox Prairie Community Kitchen, Full Gospel Tutoring, Safe Harbor & The Purple Hanger, Sustainability @ Knox, Women of Influence, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Circle K, Best Buddies, Alpha Phi Omega, Blessings in a Backpack, Project Eye to Eye, and the Free Store.