The Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center was created to help the community, but its work has received national attention.
Central Michigan University was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the seventh year in a row last spring. Employees at the volunteer center are optimistic about making the list again in 2014.
“I know that with our continued student engagement and community partnerships, we will meet the standards of the other institutions that traditionally make up the honor roll constituency,” Volunteer Center Director Shawna Ross said.
The President’s Community Service Honor Roll, which started in 2006, highlights universities throughout the country that have contributed to their community through service programs.
The volunteer center was formed in 1992 by Dr. Mary Ellen Brandell. Since then, the center has been working alongside other volunteer organizations on campus to serve the Mount Pleasant community.
“Service is ingrained in CMU’s DNA,” Wyoming graduate student and Volunteer Center Graduate Supervisor Jason Vasquez said. “Through their commitment to serving local and global communities, the Volunteer Center has been able to impact thousands of diverse groups of people over the past 20 years.”
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Alternative Breaks, the Volunteer Center is planning to increase the scale of their service program this year by adding more than 50 different Alternative Break trips.
Alternative Breaks organizes service projects for student volunteers during winter, spring and summer breaks as well as on select weekends. The program includes local, national and international volunteer projects.
The center will also start a new program this September called CMU Service Ambassadors. The program will organize volunteers to perform community service in the Mount Pleasant area on Friday afternoons throughout the academic year.
Along with its community service programs, the Volunteer Center is involved in the organization of many events in Mount Pleasant, such as the Issue Day Conference, 9/11 Day of Service, Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and Be My Neighbor Day.
Washington graduate student Rachel Thomas has been volunteering at the center for four years and currently serves as administrative assistant for the organization.
“We keep striving to connect students with their community through service and advocacy,” Thomas said.
The Volunteer Center’s work does not stop with the end of the academic year.
During the summer, the center is run by a staff of six people. According to Ross, there are two part-time student volunteers who coordinate the summer Alternative Breaks, as well as two full-time staff members, an administrative assistant and the director.
Over the summer, the center works closely with many other community service organizations in Mount Pleasant, including Gear UP, College Days and Grandparents U, Thomas said. They also set up service projects with CMU groups including Leadership Safari, Upward Bound and The League.
The Volunteer Center plans to apply for the President’s Honor Roll again this fall, and they are confident they will receive the reward for the eighth time.