The Importance of ‘Giving Back.’

As poverty rates continue to climb in Johnson County, volunteering has become more prevalent with some University of Iowa students.

By: Stefanie Schultz

The Hawkeye Area Community Action Program has various holiday programs to help low-income and homeless Iowa City families. This donation box is located at Kmart on Highway 6 in Iowa City. Photo by: Stefanie Schultz

Kelsey Jenn is a senior at the University of Iowa. She is an Elementary Education major who has volunteered since high school.

“I began volunteering at local hospitals. I’ve also volunteered at food banks and retirement homes. Here at the University I’ve done a lot of tutoring. I want to be a teacher so as much interaction as I can have with children is great,” said Jenn.

A variety of local organizations offer volunteer opportunities for local community members and university students. Habitat for Humanity is an organization that offers volunteer opportunities for students. They focus on building affordable homes for families in need.

“We do fundraising campaigns all year. It’s a rewarding experience,” said Kasie Ver Schurrue, Director of Resource Development for Habitat for Humanity.

University students and local community members can also become volunteers through church groups.

Susan Lungren, Christian Formation leader for Calvary Episcopal Church, encourages students and community members to volunteer.

“Volunteering is a gratifying experience. The most rewarding part is seeing the happiness on the faces of the people you have helped and to know you’ve touched their lives,” said Lungren.

Jenn agrees.

“The best part of volunteering is knowing that you’ve made a difference in another persons life,” said Jenn.

Local Volunteering Opportunities

The Parkview Church in Iowa City, is a local church that has a variety of volunteer opportunities for students and individuals. Doug Fern, Pastor of Compassionate Ministries, said that student volunteering has increased in the past year.

“It’s been great to see more university students volunteering. This year we’ve had more students than we’ve had in past years,” said Fern.

The Parkview Church offers volunteer opportunities for after school programs, reading programs, and mentoring programs and they have a strong connection with University of Iowa.

“Currently we have 100 kids in mentoring programs. We serve food and play games. I encourage students to check out our website if they are interested in volunteering,” said Fern.

Students have the opportunity to volunteer not only locally but around the country. The Calvary Episcopal Church gives students the opportunity to volunteer around the country.

“We [Calvary Episcopal Church] have repaired homes in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky, West Virgina, and Tennessee. We have also taught Bible School to children in Canada and Montana,” said Lungren.

The Importance of Volunteering

For some students at the University of Iowa volunteering has been a rewarding experience.

“I’ve always valued the opportunity to give back to a community that has supported me in many ways. When I tutor or work with a child, it’s amazing to see them get so excited and happy. The way they light up makes all the difference,” said Jenn.

Nick Chamis, First-Year Law Student at the University of Iowa, said that volunteering has been a satisfying experience.

“It’s seeing the work you’ve done and to know that no matter how minor it is, it still makes a difference,” said Chamis.

Jenn also describes volunteering as a rewarding experience and something that she will continue to do.

“It’s something that I value and I feel that a community struggles to function without it,” said Jenn.

“My advice for other students would be to find something that you think you’ll truly love to do. Just wanting to help out is awesome, but when you find something that you truly care about, it makes the experience that much more rewarding,” said Jenn.


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