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Office of Leadership & Engagement

Nature/Historical Sites

Ever hear of the term “Go Green”? Today, everybody is going green! In addition to being environmentally conscious in your everyday life, you can volunteer at the following agencies and make a truly green contribution!

For more information about these organizations, please contact our office at 217-581-3967 or email

Douglas-Hart Nature Center

The Douglas-Hart Nature Center is dedicated to the education, understanding and enjoyment of nature. We feature more than 70 acres of forest, prairie, pond and wetland habitats as well as a Visitors Center filled with hands-on interpretive displays. We need your help in this quest.

Volunteers do not need any specific skills. Volunteers are needed to help on the weekends at the Visitor Center and to help throughout the week on the grounds, cleaning, and sorting newsletters. A volunteer form is available in the Office of Student Community Service for this opportunity.

Contact Person: Rachel Bradbury
Telephone: 217-235-4644

Embarras Volunteer Stewards

The Embarras Volunteer Stewards began in 1994 to help public and private land owners in their efforts to preserve and restore native prairie and woodland sites. We are people from all walks of life who work under the guidance of biologists. We give about 40 Saturday mornings a year to help in small ways so that Illinois will not lose the rest of its precious natural heritage, of which less than .07 percent remains to us today.

Volunteers are needed on specific Saturdays to assist with cutting and spraying bushes, planting shrubs, burning branches and more. Please visit the website below and go to "events" for specific dates.

Contact Person: Kenton Macy

The Whiteside Garden

In 1963, Dr. Wesley (Wes) Whiteside began transforming 5 acres of former farmland into a diverse botanical garden that has become a true treasure for east-central Illinois. Though he retired from Eastern Illinois University’s Botany Department in 1987, Wes continued to nurture and develop his garden, drawing many visitors to view his collections, which are unmatched in the region.

Volunteers are needed to help mulching, weeding, trimming, and more.

Contact Person: Rachel Bradbury
Telephone: 217-235-4644

Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site

Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site preserves the site of the 1840s farm of Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln, father and stepmother of our 16th president. Located at 402 South Lincoln Highway Lerna, IL 62440.

Volunteers are needed to work the front desk and act as guides for the visitor center. Duties include starting the informational video for guests, orienting them to the site and exhibits, requesting that they sign in for guest counts and demographics, and acting as an ambassador to the site.

Volunteers are also needed to work in the gift shop to transact retail sales and restock shelves.

Training and name tags are provided. Dress is casual, but professional (khakis and polo).

From Labor Day to Memorial Day the Visitor Center and Gift Shop are open Wednesday through Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the VC and GS are open seven days a week from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Contact Person: Lori Henderson


Fit-2-Serve is local non-profit organization that is a catalyst for a vibrant collaborative community through strengths, service, and relationships. We are specifically passionate about strengthening relations through community gardening, wellness education, and our Community Bridges programming!

Learn-2-Grow (K) 30 minute sessions held on Mondays and Tuesdays at the Mattoon Riddle and Williams Elementary Schools

Learn-2-Grow introduces students to the basics of gardening & brings awareness to the importance of caring for our environment.

Farm-2-Table (1st Grade) 60 minute sessions held at our building (1316 Lafayette Avenue, Mattoon) on Thursdays and Fridays at 9a and 1p.

Farm-2-Table students are introduced to farming & agriculture communities each month to bring awareness & appreciation for the origination of the foods we eat. Students are bused to Fit-2-Serve to participate in two very unique classroom experiences, including time in the Teaching Kitchen to taste & create a recipe centered on the community being studied.

School-2-Farm (2nd Grade) 45 minute sessions held on Wednesdays at a variety of venues (One of our gardens, Mattoon High School FFA classrooms and greenhouse, and the 2nd grade classrooms at Riddle and Williams Elementary Schools).

School-2-Farm programming deepens students’ understanding of the agricultural community. In the Fall & Spring, students travel to the Community Garden for experiential gardening practices, such as planting, weeding, & harvesting. Additionally, MHS FFA students host two field trips in which they plan & facilitate a S2F program.

Volunteers can join us for one of our programs above or in our Presbyterian Garden on Saturday mornings from 8a-Noon. Fit-2-Serve is also open to having college students serve as interns to support our mission to equip people for works of service.

Contact Person: Beau Scott
Telephone: 217-235-3839

5 Mile House

Five Mile House Historic site is the oldest house in Coles County! Built sometime in the 1840s (no records exist to prove its actual date), it was slated to be demolished for a gas station site. A group of concerned citizens banded together in 1998 to purchase and renovate it.

It is now a thriving 501 c 3 charitable organization. Every other Sunday afternoon during the summer and fall, free music and historical programs are put on by local groups and speakers.

Our latest major project, still in progress, is the deconstruction and reconstruction of an 1880s barn on a corner of the 5 Mile House site. We enjoyed the ambiance of its shelter for the summer programs. When the forge is completed, it will serve as a blacksmith and carpenter shop, historical display and a community gathering space.

Another current project is establishing a Butterfly Garden on the corner of our lot. So far we have tilled and applied herbicide to the area to make way for the butterfly-friendly plants. Members of the Urban Butterfly Initiative graciously mulched a border around the perimeter to deter grass invasion and provide paths to stroll through the garden. Later in the fall we will install live plants donated by the Douglas Hart Nature Center and in November, scatter seed of butterfly-attracting plants and cover them with straw for the winter.

In the spring, 200 4th graders from Jefferson School are bussed out to the site (spread out over 2 days) to hear about the life of soldiers in the Civil War from reenactors in uniform, learn about the importance of spinning and weaving in the 1800s, play 1800s games and dance an 1800s line dance, and help mix up a batch of “johnnycake” that they see cooking over an open fire, then taste the finished product.

Our major fundraiser in the summer is a BBQ and Bingo with a silent auction. The final event for the year the first Sunday in October is a Fall Festival, a gala happening with music, a magician, blacksmithing, artisans, cider pressing, petting zoo, children’s activities, hands-on pioneer kitchen demonstrations and more.

Volunteers are welcome to help:
* maintain the butterfly garden
* Fall festival (first Sunday in October): set up and tear down, assist with the children doing pioneer crafts, or demonstrate pioneer food preservation
* supervise the pioneer games during the 4th grade visit (first week in May)
* provide light maintenance at the site, such as picking up sticks in the yard, small painting touchups, spreading mulch, weeding the herb beds
During the BBQ and bingo fundraiser, we need helping hands for: collecting money from the bingo players and working in the kitchen – serving food, refilling desserts, refilling drinks, cleaning up afterward.

Contact Persons: Kathy Hummel - 217-549-1157 Tom Vance –



Grand Prairie Friends

Grand Prairie Friends is a volunteer-driven, not-for-profit, conservation organization and land trust composed of people from many walks of life who share a commitment to preserve and restore tallgrass prairie and woodlands in east-central Illinois. GPF, formed in 1984, now preserves over 1200 acres of woodlands, prairie, and wetlands. The largest property, Warbler Ridge Conservation Area, is just south of Charleston and boasts 10 miles of hiking trails. The public is welcome to visit any of our properties from dawn to dusk.

In addition to prairie preservation, we also practice prairie reconstruction and community education while fostering community partnerships.

Typical volunteer needs include invasive plant removal, tree planting, clearing trails, and general cleanup duties. Volunteers are also used at public events. Detailed events and volunteer opportunities can be found at

Contact Person: Diane Wilhite

Contact Person Email:


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Leadership & Engagement

Eastern Illinois University
MLK Jr. Union 3rd Floor
Charleston, IL 61920

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