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The Daily Tar Heel

Community Calls for Service

Though the supply of service is great, local demand is still greater

The Carolina Center for Public Service, Volunteer Orange!, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and the Public Service and Advocacy Committee of student government held a volunteer fair Wednesday on Polk Place to allow campus and community groups to recruit student and faculty volunteers.

Director Lynn Blanchard said CCPS purposely held the event on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with tables scattered amid the University's convocation.

"I think one good reason (for having it Sept. 11) is while it's important to think about things in a somber reflection of what happened, it's also important to think about learning -- that it's an ability to turn the experience of 9/11 into personal action in our lives by volunteering," she said.

Blanchard said many people have chosen careers in public service after the attacks. "Volunteering is a way to learn about what the issues are and how we can make a difference," she said.

Nick Didow, a business professor and member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board, formed CCPS in 1991.

He said that although students are doing wonderful work off campus, the need for volunteers still exceeds their numbers.

"Even though hundreds of students currently volunteer as students and mentors through Chapel Hill and Carrboro schools, we need hundreds more, specifically with respect to older Americans and retirees."

He cited student involvement with the increasing Latino population in the region as one area in which students have been particularly active but said the community needs more of those similar efforts.

Holley Byrum, a senior psychology major, manned a table at the fair for APPLES, a campus service-learning organization that combines academics with community service. "If there's anything a student is passionate about, we can find a way of giving them an opportunity to volunteer there, as well as getting them academic credit," she said.

Byrum said she took an advanced Spanish composition and conversation class last semester, a course that allowed her to spend about half her time in a University classroom and the other half at Mary Scroggs Elementary School in Chapel Hill, where she taught cultural diversity.

Byrum said there are a number of UNC courses students can take through APPLES, but many classes include a service-learning component and are not associated with APPLES, such as the consumer behavior course Didow has taught for 15 years.

Chapel Hill resident Kit Stanley represented the Orange County Literacy Council at the fair. The council strives to help the 33 percent of county adults with literacy needs through tutoring.

Stanley said the council is trying to recruit students because out of its 150 volunteers, only about 15 of those are students. "I think it helps take (students) out of the box," she said. "Students bring a lot of energy and insight that some of the other volunteers can't provide."

Blanchard said it is crucial that students go outside UNC to do some public service. "It offers us a way to connect the issues society faces with the academic community."

She said students have a symbiotic relationship with the community, both reaping benefits from the other. "It's more of a partnership than something we do for the community."

Didow said the last time he checked, there were 452 student organizations with some kind of public service component. "Yet our challenge is how to take that to the next level because we continue to be behind the need of the local community."

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