CCEL offers volunteer opportunities to WSU

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(Photo by Kaitlyn Johnson) Heidi Jenkins and Christina Chow work on a project through the Center for Community Engaged Learning.


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(Photo by Kaitlyn Johnson) Several volunteer opportunities are available through the Center for Community Engaged Learning.

The Center for Community Engaged Learning has many opportunities for Weber State University students to gain service hours. Among the service opportunities offered through the CCEL are several volunteer projects that take place weekly and monthly.

Melissa Richards, Your Community Connection chair, recommended five ongoing volunteer activities for WSU students.

“We have the Special Olympics, Service Nook, Nature Center, Open Gym and Best Buddies,” Richards said.

The Special Olympics were held on Feb. 15, and state competitions will be held on March 15.

“They need tons of volunteers,” Richards said. “State competitions will be up on Powder Mountain and at North Fork Park. You can volunteer to assist with the athletes or time the events.”

Natalie Nestoryak, Special Olympic Winter Games co-chair, said the athletes thrive when there are more volunteers to help out and celebrate with them in the stands.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help improve the athletes’ lives for the better,” she said. “. . . The support by showing up and cheering makes the athletes’ day.”

The Service Nook provides weekly opportunities, 1:30-3:30 p.m. every Thursday in the CCEL. Haille Van Patten, Done in a Day chair at WSU, said she thinks the Service Nook is a fun and easy way for WSU students to serve and make a difference.

“We do simple projects,” Van Patten said. “It is easy — you come in, put your two hours in, and you really get a lot out of it.”

The projects change weekly, and in the past have included letter writings to children at Primary Children’s Medical Center, the tying of blankets for pediatrics, and many different craft activities that benefit different community organizations.

The Ogden Nature Center provides opportunities to teach the community. Its website states that it provides quality educational programs to the community and has taught thousands of participants to experience nature up close and to strengthen their connections to the environment.

Travis Poulson, Ogden Nature Center chair, said the center is home to birds going through rehabilitation and holds events to teach children about nature, including summer camps.

The Nature Center is run mostly by volunteers. In 2013, volunteers donated a combined 14,000 hours of service to the center.

“Volunteers do anything from maintenance of the grounds to answering phones,” Poulson said.

Poulson said further time commitment and training is involved when working near the animals.

“Anybody willing can go down and spend time,” he said. “The tasks change with the seasons, but there is always something interesting to do and learn.”

Open Gym is held every Monday and Wednesday night, 6-7:30 p.m. at YCC in Ogden. This is a time designated for the youth to play sports and games, do crafts and interact with one another.

“What we do there is simple: We play with the kids,” Richards said.

Richards has been volunteering three hours per week with YCC since last semester.

“It is a fun way to give back to the community,” she said. “There is no greater feeling than when you serve somebody. It really makes your college experience.”

Best Buddies is a program geared toward individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. WSU students can volunteer time doing activities and playing games with the program once a month. Best Buddies offers its participants one-on-one friendships with college students.

“They (Best Buddies) are always getting new buddies,” Richards said. “They are always needing new volunteers to come.”

Recently, Best Buddies hosted bowling activities at WSU, made tie-dye shirts for Martin Luther King week, and took Valentine’s cookies to local fire and police stations.

Van Patten said she thinks every WSU student should volunteer and spend a little bit more time on others.

“It just makes you a better person in general,” she said. “Since I’ve started, I want to do more.”