Lakers give back in United Day of Caring

Courtesy Photo /
Lincoln Park Elementary student volunteer during the United Way Day of Caring

Courtesy Photo / Lincoln Park Elementary student volunteer during the United Way Day of Caring

Rachel Melke

Wearing white shirts with the words “Live United,” 28 Grand Valley State University students, staff and faculty members came together with members of the West Michigan community to participate in Heart of West Michigan United Way’s Day of Caring Friday.

This year, Day of Caring was held in correspondence with the National Day of Service and Remembrance in honor of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2010, 1,600 volunteers from 45 companies contributed to 79 different service projects and cumulated 5,000 hours of service.

Volunteers from GVSU participated in three different projects at Blandford Nature Center, Stuff the Bus and Celebration on the Grand. Each of these places held different responsibilities, including wood-splitting at Blandford Nature Center, sorting and distributing collections of donated school supplies at Stuff the Bus and helping with registration at Celebration on the Grand.

Other projects around Grand Rapids included yard work and painting and refurbishing of rooms and buildings.

GVSU’s participation was not only due to its partnership with United Way, but it is also a means for the students, faculty and staff to give back to the community.

“Grand Valley believes strongly in being involved in the community,” said Sue Sloops, director of this year’s GVSU Day of Caring event. “The three pillars of the United Way are education, finance and health. We know that if we can help families in our communities that need service in those three areas, that’s our way of giving back and helping the less fortunate.”

Students who attended Day of Caring also view service in this way.

“It’s important to give back to the community, especially a nature center,” said sophomore Natalie Phillips, who volunteered at Blandford. “It’s good for kids to come to and good to get out.”

Students from the same project also said they enjoyed doing something that was hard working and being outside rather than volunteer work that involved sitting at a desk.

However, community service rewarding to more than those who receive it. Sloops said mental health is also enriched when someone volunteers, rewarding the individual providing service and providing an incentive.

GVSU volunteers are also involved with Schools of Hope, a tutoring program in the Grand Rapids area that works to bridge the reading gap among the highest performing districts in Kent County and Grand Rapids Public Schools. Grand Valley State University had 100 people participate in Schools of Hope, which is run through the United Way, in 2010.

If you are interested in additional volunteer work, United Way’s website will give more information, including skill-based volunteering which makes use of individual’s skills in a more specific way than general volunteering. Additional opportunities can be found through GVSU’s Community Service Learning Center at

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