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DeKALB – Name a volunteer project, and a student from Northern Illinois University likely is doing it this weekend.
Saturday is the fourth annual NIU Cares Day, a day of community service that sends students and staff from the university into the cities, villages and towns of DeKalb County to lend a hand.
Becky Harlow, assistant director for NIU’s department of Student Involvement and Leadership Development, said 1,800 students have registered to take part, and she expects at least another 200 to show up Saturday.
Harlow’s office does all of the legwork to establish what needs to be done and matches students to the projects. Check-in begins at 10 a.m. at the Holmes Student Center. Volunteers will arrive at their project sites between 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. and will remain there for up to four hours. The hope is that students might find an organization they want to volunteer with, she added.
There are almost 80 project sites on campus and throughout the county, Harlow said. In the past, most projects were in DeKalb or Sycamore, but this year there also are projects in Genoa, Malta and Maple Park. They are working with 50 organizations, Harlow said, including the DeKalb Park District, The Salvation Army, TAILS Humane Society and RAMP, as well as schools, libraries and churches.
Projects include painting, cleaning up, resurfacing playgrounds and landscaping, according to a news release announcing the event. Volunteer teams will go to homes to collect paper goods and other items to be donated to community organizations, while others will create coloring books for children at local medical facilities, according to the news release.
“I think that they have their own reasons for wanting to do it,” Harlow said when asked why it was important to hold the day. “I think it’s important that we provide the avenue. We have a generation of students ... who are really looking to make a difference and just don’t know how to go about doing it.”
This year, Illinois Chevy is partnering with NIU and providing four vehicles for volunteers to use. The “Your Mission. Our Drive” program aims to help communities throughout the state by providing vehicles to individuals and organizations giving back to the community, said Ashley Johnson, who does public relations work for Chevy.
The group takes “mission” requests on its Facebook page, Johnson said, and then chooses events to help out at.