Nonprofits seek student volunteers at the semi-annual Volunteer Fair

In order to recruit volunteers and educate students about service opportunities available, 32 nonprofit organizations set up booths at the Volunteer Fair in the Shepherd Union Building on Wednesday. In addition to a high turnout of community partners offering volunteer opportunities, many students attended the fair.

“The fair is a win-win-win situation,” said Mike Moon, Community Involvement Center assistant director. “It is a one-stop shop where the students (and faculty) can make educated decisions on which organizations they want to serve with and where the organization can get competent volunteers who are interested in helping their organization.”

Jessica Winslow, a senior majoring in criminal justice and psychology, was looking for a service opportunity to fulfill one of the requirements for graduate school. She found a volunteer opportunity at the fair after talking with Melanie Speechly, coordinator of Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Winslow said she feels like this opportunity was very personalized. She said she told Speechly what she was looking for, and Speechly helped her find something that would fit with her schedule and with what she was studying.

“I want to go into forensic psychology,” Winslow said. “This (service) opportunity will help me get into graduate school, and it will also help me in my practice.”

The Community Involvement Center sponsors the Volunteer Fair every fall and spring semester to give students the chance to connect with community partners and to learn about the various service options available to them. Some students are required to do service or community-based learning or research for their classes. The fair is a place these students can find volunteer opportunities to fulfill those requirements, Moon said.

“The fair is a great opportunity for students to find what types of organizations are out there,” said Noel Wilkinson, AmeriCorps Vista member. “It is better and easier  than looking at a list . . . they can actually see what these organizations are doing and talk with the people that run them.”

Moon said the Volunteer Fair has been going on for about 20 years.

“We have community partners that come back every year because they know it is a very successful recruiting tool,” Moon said.

St. Anne’s Homeless Shelter in Ogden, the largest homeless shelter in Utah, helps men, women and children by offering them many different programs, from self-esteem-building to getting a job. This is St. Anne’s fourth year at the Volunteer Fair.

“Volunteers are what keep us going,” said Dani Charbonneau, St. Anne’s volunteer community service coordinator. “We can’t afford to keep a big staff. Weber State has been an integral part of what we do.”

Other community partners entirely new to the fair said they have found their participation to be extremely worthwhile. This is the first time that CASA has been represented at the Volunteer Fair. Speechly said she was hoping to get CASA’s name out and get more exposure among the student population. She said she would like to diversify its volunteer pool by adding more college students.

“Coming to the volunteer fair was really worth my time,” Speechly said. “I got out of this exactly what I was hoping for. I have five or six students who are really interested in being a court advocate.”