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Students Reach Out to the Community This Holiday Season

By Christine Duellman
UW-RF News Bureau

NOV. 18, 2004--Student volunteers at UW-River Falls are working hard to bring cheer to those less fortunate this holiday season.

There are currently 141 active student organizations on campus and nearly all of them have specific service missions that vary from philanthropy, clothing or food drives, cleanups, bake sales, bloodmobiles and dance marathons. Most organizations donate money to children's hospitals, food banks and shelters.

"I believe young adults in college have always had a social conscience," said Roger Ballou, the dean for student development and campus diversity. "They see a vast world in front of them, one with many challenges. Going out and getting involved brings hem closer to workable solutions."

One visible example is the annual sleep-out organized by an organization called Campus and Community Fighting Hunger and Homelessness. This is the fifth year students have slept outside of the Hagestad Student Center in November with hopes of raising some $2,000. All proceeds go to charity organizations geared towards hunger and homelessness. In addition to the annual sleep-out, this organization works year round to raise money, clean up the community, and collect food for food drives.

"I think it's important to volunteer simply because I feel every person, especially when they reach an adult age, has a responsibility as a citizen to help out people in need," said Stephanie McLaughlin, campus chair of Campus and Community Fighting Hunger and Homelessness.

Other students are spending their free time this holiday season wrapping shoe boxes filled with new toys and hygiene and school supplies. This group, Operation Christmas Child, sends the boxes to children all over the world who wouldn't otherwise receive a gift this holiday season.

Last year the Multicultural Student Organization and student Micaela Rodriguez initiated Operation Christmas Child on the campus of UW-RF. They collaborated with other organizations on campus and the local community and sent out more than 400 boxes to children all over the world.

"Operation Christmas Child is important," said Linda Alverez, campus advisor for Operation Christmas Child. "One of our Hmong students, a recent UW-RF graduate, spend part of his childhood in a resettlement camp in Thailand and received one of these boxes. All he remembers is that some people on the other side of the world cared enough to give him a present. It was the first present he ever received."

Some students at UW-RF are choosing to make a difference by participating in a day of dancing. Dance Marathon is an annual event held to raise money for Gillette Children’s Hospital.

This year Dance Marathon will be coordinated by a new campus organization called Smiles 4 Kids. The organization has more than 240 members and is currently the largest student organization on campus. Its goal is to raise $15,000.

"Smiles 4 Kids and Dance Marathon gets college students involved in making a difference in other peoples lives," said Jeremy Kalal, coordinator for Dance Marathon and president of Smiles 4 Kids.

During the event held in the Robert P. Knowles Physical Education and Recreation Center, dance teams stay on their feet for eight hours to show their support for the cause. In addition, families from Gillette Children’s Hospital give personal testimonials throughout the event, and people involved see the results of their hard work first-hand, said Kalal.

Students and UW-RF campus organizations will continue to work on volunteer programs all year. Many are asking for more community help and campus participation. For example, the American Red Cross Bloodmobile is a frequent campus visitor and every Thursday the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity meets in the International Room of the Hagestad Student Center to plan future projects.

"Colleges and universities are all about a better future," said Ballou. "A better service is the result of service minded and socially minded people. Colleges and universities worth their salt need to motivate students to become active in their campus and community life. It is critical to a better tomorrow."

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Last updated: Tuesday, 22-Jun-2010 16:21:18 Central Daylight Time

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