In 2003, EIU’s student government was on the lookout for a way to improve the relationship between the university’s student body and the people of Charleston. That initiative became known as Panther Service Day, and 11 years later it’s still going strong and has evolved into a major service opportunity for the entire Eastern community.
This year’s installment of Panther Service Day is actually a two-day event, beginning Friday, April 19, with a 5K walk/run to raise money for local and international youth alike. Things really get into gear Saturday, April 20, when a variety of service opportunities are scheduled all day long across the area.
Rachel Fisher, director of Student Community Service, asks that volunteers preregister for these service projects; you can register individually or as a group. Group registration is for teams of six or more.
Additionally, the EIU Alumni Association is getting in on the festivities by providing a cookout lunch Saturday for all volunteers; the first 300 volunteers to check in will also receive complimentary T-shirts.
Make sure you check out the schedule of events at the Student Community Service website for full details of all events; you can also email volunteer @eiu.edu or call 21-581-3967 for more information. Here are some of the weekend’s planned highlights:
Friday, April 19
The “Miles for Miracles!” 5K walk/run will contribute 100% of the proceeds it generates to a pair of youth organizations: Charleston Teen REACH and Adonai Child Care Center, a program for Ugandan children orphaned by AIDS and extended civil unrest in the country’s northern and eastern regions.
Race time is 5 p.m. and the entry fee is $12; the sooner you bring your registration form to the Student Activities Center on the second floor of the MLK Jr. Union, the more likely you are to get a free race T-shirt. The goal is to attract 333 participants.
Saturday, April 20
Volunteers who want to get up early that Saturday can spend their morning at Charleston High School, site of the Girls on the Run Spring 5K. If you’re not familiar with Girls on the Run, it’s an after-school education and empowerment program aimed at third- through eighth-grade girls. More information on the East Central Illinois chapter is available at its website.
Later in the day, participants will have their pick of several work sites. Those interested in visiting residents of local nursing homes and retirement communities will have the opportunity to do so, while volunteers are also sought for a little hands-on work at Douglas-Hart Nature Center in Mattoon.
Additionally, volunteers will head to nearby Ashmore to participate in a “community makeover” involving a number of beautification tasks, while others will stay right here in Charleston and take part in the “trash bash” by cleaning up litter around town.
If you’d like to give your time to one of several local non-profit agencies, you’ll have the chance to lend your services at places like HOPE of East Central Illinois, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, Standing Stone, and the Five Mile House. Right here on campus, meanwhile, volunteers are needed to complete other tasks to benefit a variety of local agencies.