Volunteer, internship fair taking place at GVSU

GVL / Luke Holmes - Students check out Becky Bakers therapy dog, Lilley. The Volunteer/Non-Profit Internship Fair was held in Henry Hall on Thursday, Sep. 8, 2016.

GVL / Luke Holmes – Students check out Becky Baker’s therapy dog, Lilley. The Volunteer/Non-Profit Internship Fair was held in Henry Hall on Thursday, Sep. 8, 2016.

Ita Tsai

Grand Valley State University’s Nonprofit Volunteer and Internship Fair will take place Wednesday, Jan. 31, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the L. William Seidman Center, located on the Pew Campus. The fair is a collaboration between the Community Service Learning Center and the Career Center.

More than 50 nonprofit organizations from West Michigan will be at the fair to connect with students and seek potential volunteers or interns in the greater Grand Rapids area. This event brings together different organizations to offer students the opportunity to do an internship or to provide their services at advocacy agencies. 

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County and the Refugee Education Center are just some examples of which agencies will be participating in the fair. The complete list of participants can be found online. Resumes and business attire won’t be required, but they are recommended for those with intentions of finding an internship. 

The fair is free and doesn’t require registration. It is open for all GVSU students as well as students from Cornerstone University and Grand Rapids Community College.

Liz Collver, assistant director of student life for civic engagement and organizer of the event, highly encourages students to go to the fair.

“It’s an easy way for students to connect with a number of nonprofit agencies, whether it’s just to volunteer or for a job,” Collver said. “It makes it easier for our partners as well because they get to meet a lot of students.” 

This event takes place every semester and has been running for more than seven years now.

“We have seen a large amount of diversity in our organizations,” Collver added. “New people have started coming to the fair, whereas people that have always come decided to engage with students in a different way, so every semester is different. This keeps the fair really interesting.” 

Habitat for Humanity of Kent County is a nonprofit organization created in 1983 that provides affordable housing to people who are looking to build and purchase a cheap but safe home. They are one of the organizations that will have stand in the fair. 

“One of our biggest accomplishments is that we’re just completing our 400th home in Kent County, so that’s 400 families that have had the opportunity to live in affordable and stable housing,” said Luke Ferris, the communication specialist for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County.

The majority of the organization’s funding comes from donations from individuals in the community, but it is also supported by contributions from corporations, foundations and government funding.

“There’s a huge housing need both in Grand Rapids and across the world,” Ferris said. “In West Michigan, there’s a low supply of affordable housing, … and this challenges people of low income who spend the majority of their income on housing that sometimes is not safe for families and young children. Habitat helps families that may not originally qualify for a mortgage—or those who lack the ability to purchase a safe home—to have a path to home ownership.

“We need young creative minds to help further our mission with volunteering and writing skills.”

The Spectrum Health Rehab and Nursing Center will also be represented at the fair. The agency takes in rehabilitation patients who need long-term physical therapy. It is also the second-largest nursing home in Michigan, with three floors of nursing residences.

“We’ve had such great students from GV that study something related to health care come work one-on-one with residents here,” said Terri Morse, the volunteer coordinator for the center. “Some of our residents have no family, and the students come and make connections with them. The volunteers that we get here are the ones that make the real difference. 

“Imagine if you’re in a facility and you rarely ever get a visitor, and all of a sudden you get a volunteer assigned to you that reads to you, talks to you and takes you outside to get a breath of fresh air. That makes a huge difference to somebody’s life.”

It’s the small things, according to Morse, that make the biggest difference for some. 

“We have some residents that only speak Spanish, and some Spanish-speaking students come here to have a conversation with them,” Morse said. “Just to have someone to listen to you makes all the difference in the world for these people.”