When I was growing up in Washington County, Ind., I learned through example that it was important to be a good neighbor — whether that meant fixing something for the people next door, helping clean up roads after a storm or taking a meal to a family with a new baby.
Last spring, I started my dream job when I was named director of Indiana University’s new IU Corps initiative, following several wonderful years with IU’s Career Development Center. Essentially, IU Corps is the hub of IU’s expansive and diverse service network, helping to connect students with meaningful volunteer experiences locally, nationally and globally. Any time an IU student engages in volunteerism or service, that work is considered an IU Corps experience. Those experiences can include one-time Earth Day cleanups, semester-long service-learning classes, alternative spring break programs, or even years of community engagement through scholarship programs.
Since I started this position, I have met with and been inspired by literally hundreds of good neighbors — the people who work for and with nonprofit agencies, those who help connect IU students with service opportunities, and the community members who volunteer to support our community. These individuals to me are the definition of what it means to be a community, and the way they share their time and resources helps to improve the quality of all of our lives.
This month, I am happy to announce a brand-new database called IU Corps Volunteer Central. Volunteer Central is university’s first-ever “front door” to easily connecting with our talented and passionate undergraduate and graduate student labor force in one spot.
IU Corps Volunteer Central will make it easier for students to find service opportunities that best suit their interests and talents, while nonprofits can use the site to post their specific needs by type, length of time and desired skill set. Volunteer opportunities already listed on the Bloomington Volunteer Network will auto-populate the new database. Over time, I hope Volunteer Central will make all of our jobs easier and that it will lead to even greater community engagement.
To celebrate this new tool and our growing collaborations, we’re hosting a community event at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, at the new Dimension Mill, at 642 N. Madison St., in collaboration with the city of Bloomington, United Way of Monroe County and the IU Center for Rural Engagement. At the event, I’ll explain how to use the IU Corps Volunteer Central, and we’ll hear from Lucy Schaich, director of the Bloomington Volunteer Network; Efrat Fefferman, director of United Way of Monroe County; and Shance Sizemore, CEO of the Bedford Chamber and Lawrence County Economic Growth Council.
If you’re somehow connected with this community’s vast network of service and volunteerism, please join us! I truly believe that by activating the compassion and talents of our student body, we can make a tangible difference in the community, in the state of Indiana and everywhere our students volunteer their time. The organization of IU Corps will also help us to see where IU is making the greatest impact, and to learn where we can be of even greater service throughout the state and all over the world.
This guest column was written by Cassi Winslow-Edmonson of Bloomington for the Herald Times.