ORIENTATION: How to volunteer on and off campus

Bay City freshman Skylar Anderson volunteers her help stocking the Student Food Pantry in Robinson Hall.

At Central Michigan University, volunteering can forge a path to the future. For those who have a volunteer’s heart, consider this guide on how to offer your services.

The Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center is the central hub for all service opportunities on-campus. Located on the first floor of the Bovee University Center, its doors are open for those who want to offer their strength and knowledge.

Signing up for an opportunity is as straightforward as it is necessary. Students can fill out a Volunteer Interest Form and find information on upcoming events via Engage Central - a website used by all offices and student organizations to broadcast themselves. 

Of course, walk-ins are also welcome, said Volunteer Center Director Erica Johnson.

“If a student comes to us, one of the first questions that we ask is ‘What do you care about? What do you like to do?’” Johnson said.

Some students, such as those in the honors program or holders of certain scholarships, are required to fulfill service hours as a graduation requirement. 

Logging hours is essential to fulfill those requirements and can also be done via Engage. Any volunteering managed by the Volunteer Center is logged automatically. However, volunteering outside of CMU requires students to get verification from the organization they worked with. 

The Volunteer Center offers a weekly email newsletter to keep track of any opportunities that come down the pipeline with direct links to sign up. Signing up for the newsletter can also be done via Central Link.

Before signing up or reaching out, consider researching the various programs offered. 

Descriptions of every Volunteer Center program can be found online and no two opportunities are alike. 

Here are just some of the Volunteer Center’s highlighted programs:

  • Alternative Breaks Meant for students who love to travel and make memories in new communities. Alternative Breaks send students somewhere around the state, country or world to focus on a variety of social justice issues. These opportunities occur over breaks in the academic year (i.e. holiday break, spring break, etc.) as well as weekends. Week-long breaks often require students to pay travel fees.
  • Student Food Pantry: Located under the Robinson Residential Restaurant, the Student Food Pantry helps fight food insecurity on campus by distributing free food to students. They also provide meal swipes for students without a meal program. Volunteers can help keep the food pantry running by working distributions, organizing the storage space, and other tasks. The pantry is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • America Counts and Reads: A federally funded tutoring program through the CMU volunteer center where students help improve local children’s math and reading skills.
  • Financial Wellness Collaborative: The program assists students with budgeting and managing their finances as a college-student. 

“I really feel like we have something for everybody,” Johnson said. “Even if there wasn’t something we could help them with a national search for what they’re interested in. Right now there’s a lot of virtual opportunities we can connect students to.”

New students become part of more than just the campus community. The greater Mount Pleasant area is home to numerous nonprofits, charities and organizations with plenty of additional volunteer opportunities. 

The Volunteer Center collaborates with many of these community organizations such as RISE, an advocacy network for survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse, and Isabella County Restoration House (ICRH), the local homeless shelter.

“The community welcomes the students and looks forward to working with them, getting to know them and letting them know what Mount Pleasant is like and what we offer,” said ICRH Executive Director Dee Obrecht.

To find volunteer opportunities off campus consider the following organizations:

  • Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum Students work with children at craft tables. Alternatively, they could do desk work for the museum. The museum is open Thursday-Monday and scheduling is flexible. Volunteers must pass a basic background check.
  • Community Compassion Network and Care Store Volunteers deliver food to young students in need or work the stationary pantry which has drive-thru days every Thursday and Saturday.
  • Greater Midland Coleman Family Center Volunteers work in the Coleman Community Market, which is run by the community and volunteers. They help clients look for what they need, stock, and work a register.
  • Samaritas Students help refugee and immigrant youth become independent adults. Volunteers work as tutors and mentors, but tutors require at least an associate's degree in the relevant field.
  • New Day Foundation for Families Fighting Cancer Students can deliver groceries to families in need. They contact families to set up a time, shop, and then deliver.
  • Habitat for Humanity: A nonprofit housing organization working in local communities across the nation. An Isabella County branch is located at 201 E Pickard Road. 
  • Clothing Inc: A local nonprofit dedicated to providing free clothing to their guests at its 1114 W High St. location, in addition to offering education and community connections. Prospective volunteers can fill out a form on the organization’s website.

To volunteer or request information, contact the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center in the Bovee University Center 106 or at volunteer.center@cmich.edu.