DeKALB – The Duke Ellington Ballroom at Northern Illinois University was filled with 1,700 students ready to give up their Saturday for the community.
“This is my favorite event in our department,” said Christina Bieche, an NIU Cares Day coordinator and a graduate assistant in Student Involvement & Leadership Development. “I really am passionate about giving back to the community and seeing our students do that, too.”
NIU sent participants to 85 places during its morning and afternoon sessions for its sixth annual NIU Cares Day. The destinations included the public libraries in DeKalb and Sycamore, the DeKalb County Animal Shelter, individual residences and every school in DeKalb School District 428.
At TAILS Humane Society, eight volunteers spent most of the time cleaning.
They washed windows and dishes, cleaned pen areas and mopped floors. Courtney Marshall, volunteer coordinator for TAILS, said the organization gets many volunteers, but it is especially grateful for those from NIU.
“We’re just excited to get volunteers who are willing to do anything we ask,” Marshall said. “Sometimes the volunteers aren’t that excited about doing some of the more menial, labor things, and the NIU students have been ready to do whatever we ask, so that is wonderful.”
Seven volunteers were tasked with cleaning the hallway walls at Barb City Manor, the retirement center at 680 Haish Blvd. in DeKalb. Maureen Gerrity, assistant administrator and volunteer coordinator, said this is the first year the center has participated in NIU Cares Day.
“[The residents] are interested in the kids and appreciate that students are willing to give their time here,” Gerrity said.
Bieche said the event has grown from when 50 beneficiaries participated in the event six years ago. She said students carry the benefits of volunteering into any field of study because they learn how to build relationships.
“Volunteering helps build not only skills that they might be missing but also helps them network with other people that can help … motivate and prepare [them] for the future in their career,” Bieche said.
Michael Agyekum, a junior studying communication, has volunteered at a number of events while at NIU, but he said Saturday was his first time volunteering for NIU Cares Day.
“It’s always good to volunteer for people,” Agyekum sad. “I’m not doing it just because it’s NIU Cares Day; it’s just a good deed to do.”
Alex Baxter, a sophomore studying accounting and the community service representative for the NIU Speech Team, said she had been planning for her team to take part in NIU Cares Day since the beginning of the school year.
“The idea of volunteering, I’ve always thought, was such a great thing,” Baxter said. “I’ve been volunteering my whole life ... and every time I feel so much better that I’m helping someone else without anything in return that I expect.”