How to volunteer during a pandemic

While volunteering is currently taking a different form, Butler students are still volunteering. Collegian file photo.

KATIE DEAN | STAFF REPORTER | kldean@butler.edu

COVID-19 may have prevented volunteers from visiting nursing homes or feeding families at food pantries, but students have found other ways to give back, even if it means doing so from afar and on Zoom. Here is how volunteering has shifted this semester and how students can get involved.

Educational volunteering through Civic Learning Communities

Rather than going out into the community, students can stay connected to important issues through educational groups. The Volunteer Center has created Civic Learning Communities, or CLC, for students to join. Each of the five student staff members at The Volunteer Center focuses on a topic that interests them. Domestic violence, environmental sustainability and houselessness are a few of the focus topics for this semester.

Erica Walters, a senior Spanish major and the education and advocacy coordinator for the Volunteer Center, said she is happy students can still stay connected and active within and around the Butler community through these educational opportunities.  

“We focus a lot on active citizenship and there are a lot of different ways that we can engage to move farther from apathy and closer to being local activists,” Walters said. “One of the big ways we can do that is through education and promoting awareness of social justice issues on and around campus, in the broader Indianapolis community, and national, international community as a whole.”

Every month, CLC groups invite community members to speak with the volunteers and discuss various issues pertaining to the group subjects. Walters decided to choose environmental sustainability for her volunteer group to learn more about.

This month, Jamie Valentine, the assistant director of the Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability, will speak to Walters group about the impact of diet and localized agriculture on carbon footprint.

Brooke Blevins, a senior human communication and organizational leadership major and the student director for The Volunteer Center, chose houselessness as her CLC’s group topic.

“For our October meeting, we’re having a guest speaker from Horizon House, which is a local nonprofit that helps people transitioning out of homelessness,” Blevins said. “We’re having a guest speaker from there so we can incorporate aspects of the non-Butler community so that we’re still staying connected.”

While these groups are already set, any Butler student can attend the speaker presentations and receive the educational documents that group leaders provide.

Outside opportunities

While most volunteer opportunities are taking place through these CLC meetings, there are still organizations that would be happy to receive help from Butler students.   

Emily Wray, a sophomore English and creative media and entertainment major, has been connecting with various organizations that are in need of extra assistance due to COVID-19.

“Some of the organizations that reached out to me were groups that needed online tutoring, food pantries that are still looking for volunteers, [and] a couple that needed kits for people who have relatives in hospice,” Wray said. “I had the Indianapolis Public Library also needed some volunteers to clean books and keep everything sanitary.”

Partnerships with on-campus student organizations

On-campus organizations are also invited to work with The Volunteer Center for service events. 

“We’re constantly looking for opportunities to collaborate with on-campus organizations,” Walters said. “We’re technically an office of the university, so to collaborate with on-campus organizations who are looking to host some sort of  modified service events.”

Get connected with The Volunteer Center

Students interested in becoming involved in service learning can email volunteer@butler.edu  and communicate their specific interests, as well as sign up to be on the listserv. The volunteer staff also shares updates about opportunities on their Instagram.  

“Things look different this year but for people that have the passion and the drive and they want to volunteer — we would love to help you with that,” Wray said.

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