The Community Engagement Office hosted a fair on the Mav Ave in the CSU Tuesday, Jan. 24, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Students were able to peruse 19 different non-profit organizations from the Mankato community who set up tables along the hallway in hopes of attracting new volunteers.
“This fair is about collaborating with different organizations to see what activities students can be a part of,” said Shuk Ping Wong, a volunteer manning the Community Engagement Office table where people could check in and receive a contact sheet of all of the organizations present. “It’s providing more learning opportunities outside of the classroom and campus.”
Community engagement is an ongoing, multifaceted process by which individuals and organizations come together consistently to build a relationship for the benefit of the community. The Community Engagement Office at MNSU is part of Student Activities and strives to connect the volunteer efforts of those on campus with organizations in the greater-Mankato community in need of assistance, according to the Community Engagement website.
Most of the organizations present have recruited volunteers from MNSU before, but others were trying their luck for the first time and finding success.
“I am impressed with how many responses I have had, how many people are asking questions [and] looking to for volunteer opportunities,” said Jan Ellanson, Volunteer Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity, South Central.
It was Habitat’s first time at the fair but Ellanson reported that many students stopped by and seemed eager to ask questions and fill out a contact form to request more information.
“It warms my heart a little bit to know that young people are really involved and want to give back to the community,” she said.
Other tables seemed to fair just as well with many students moving around, talking to representatives, and walking away with pamphlets of information. There were some tables set up to represent on campus organizations, but the main focus was on the non-profit agencies and groups from a variety of fields, such as the American Red Cross and the YWCA.
“We’ve been very pleased with the volunteers here at MNSU,” said Vanessa Mack, Assistant Director for Lutheran Social Service’s (LSS) Senior Nutrition program, Meals on Wheels. LSS has been to four different events in the past and keeps returning because they like the diversity that MNSU is able to offer. They utilize students for seasonal work and the flexible hours they are willing to put in.
Many organizations, such as LSS and Habitat, are willing to work with student’s busy schedules, working around class times and work hours. Even if you can only volunteer a few hours a week, the time is worth it, according to Mack, who regrets not being involved when she went to MNSU.
“I think if you don’t get involved in the community, you just don’t know what’s out there, what it’s like,” she said. “You have no idea what other people in the community are offering in terms of new skills and perspectives.”
There are both academic and non-academic reasons to volunteer, says Wong. She encourages students to get involved simply for the opportunity to try something new and to meet new people.
“Just try something that you’re interested in or even something that you haven’t tried before,” she said. “You’d be surprised how many new people you can meet and how much you can learn from each individual.”