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Getting Connected....Northern students volunteer

At Ohio Northern University, students are getting connected to community service opportunities! When I first arrived on campus as the new chaplain in summer 2012, I had many one-to-one meetings to get to know the members of my new community. One of those meetings was held over a cup of chai latte at Northern on Main with Chris Burns-Dibiasio, our president’s wife and voluntary director of community relations. Chris had a vision that she presented to me at that meeting of creating a central location on campus, perhaps utilizing technology, where we could coordinate community service and volunteerism among our students, faculty and staff. Having come from a background of both serving in local church ministry and community organizing, I was immediately enthusiastic about Chris’ idea and signed on to work with the project before my tea had cooled!

Out of that initial meeting emerged a plan to create Get Connected ONU, a new website launched in September 2013 that allows students to search online for volunteer opportunities. We have partnered with VolunteerMatch, a nonprofit that specializes in building volunteer management websites like Get Connected ONU. VolunteerMatch is nationally recognized as a leader in connecting businesses and educational institutions with volunteer opportunities in their local communities. Because of VolunteerMatch’s proven track record of attracting good volunteer opportunities to their nationwide network, our students can search for opportunities to serve not only in Ada and the surrounding areas, but also among any one of the more than 96,000 volunteer organizations across the country. That means that your students can find opportunities to serve in their local communities even when they are home on breaks!

Several local organizations, including the Ada Food Pantry, Ada Public Library, Habitat for Humanity, the ReStore Community Center and Community Health Professionals, have already signed up as partner organizations with Get Connected ONU. Partner organizations have exclusive access to ONU students, meaning they can target their volunteer opportunities directly to our volunteers on campus, enriching our relationship with the Ada community. Since we launched Get Connected ONU in September, 471 campus volunteers have connected with area agencies and nonprofits to perform 1,075 community service hours. Already, we have set a goal of 5,000 hours for 2014!

I encourage you to ask your students if they have tried out this service yet and to have them show you around their personalized Get Connected ONU dashboard, which allows them to set their own volunteer service hour goal. Encourage them to work toward that goal by signing on to the site regularly, checking for updated information about volunteer opportunities, and getting connected to people in need of help in the community. If you or your students have questions, you can contact me at 419-772-2200 or getconnected@onu.edu. With everyone’s help, we will not only meet our goal of 5,000 hours this year, but also get connected to the world around us and make a big difference!

David MacDonald
University Chaplain and Coordinator of Get Connected ONU