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Annual Fair highlights opportunities for volunteers

Zach Griemann browses all of the volunteering opportunities at the fair.

St. Olaf’s annual Volunteer Network Fair took place this past Thursday, Sept. 20 in Buntrock Commons from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Buntrock Crossroads was bustling, filled mostly with St. Olaf students hoping to learn about available volunteer positions both within St. Olaf and in the Northfield community. Volunteer Network Coordinator Patricia Garcia ’14 organized the event.

“The fair is modeled after the co-curricular fair that happens every year in the quad, but its focus is volunteer organizations,” Garcia said. “We hold the fair to give students the opportunity to see all the different ways they can get involved in volunteerism on campus.”

Garcia commented that the Volunteer Network Fair does a great job of putting the spotlight on the more than 20 student-run volunteer organizations on campus. These organizations, including Stitches for Peace, Awesome Club, Project Friendship and People Serving People, allow St. Olaf students to get involved with groups on campus and in Northfield itself, thereby bringing the two communities closer together.

Not only did the fair feature multiple student-run organizations, but it also housed tables from Northfield-based volunteer groups. By bringing representatives to the St. Olaf campus, these organizations hope to show students that, should they want to get involved in volunteerism, their options are not limited to the St. Olaf campus. Representatives from the Girl Scouts of Northfield, St. John’s Church and Laura Baker Services came to campus hoping to recruit Oles who want to be more involved in groups outside of campus.

Emily Olson ’14 is one of many St. Olaf students who volunteer off campus during their spare time. A member of the Northfield Hospital Volunteers, Olson strongly believes that students should take advantage of the numerous volunteer opportunities open to them.

“St. Olaf life is volunteerism,” Olson said. She believes the Volunteer Network Fair is a convenient starting point for students hoping to get more involved.

“[The fair] is a great opportunity to find out about volunteer experience and find a way to give back to the community,” Olson said.

Interested students were met with incentives such as candy, pizza and free Student Government Association plastic cups, but it was truly the multitude of exciting volunteer opportunities that motivated them to show up at all. The diversity of these opportunities results in varying commitment levels among organizations: Some groups ask for a full-year commitment, while others ask volunteers to be available two to three times during the year or only over spring break. That way, students can volunteer as much or as little as they want. And the assortment of options is only growing.

“The range of volunteer orgs at the fair each year is really cool,” Garcia said. “There are groups that work with kids, some that work with the elderly, at the hospital, Feed My Starving Children, churches in Northfield, Northfield public schools and even with Special Olympics athletes.”

Garcia believes that the variety found within St. Olaf’s volunteer groups will help draw more students into the volunteer community.

The more interest in volunteerism there is on campus, the more St. Olaf’s volunteer organizations will flourish and the more Olaf’s bond with the Northfield community as a whole will strengthen. Every year, holding this fair proves to be a great way to facilitate the beginning of that process.