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Volunteer Fair offers students ways to give back

Volunteer Fair1
More than 30 nonprofit, private and governmental community service providers will participate in UNG's eighth annual Volunteer Fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, in rooms 3110 A and B in the Martha T. Nesbitt Academic Building on the Gainesville Campus.

Elachee Nature Science Center usually gets an influx of University of North Georgia (UNG) students to its Gainesville, Georgia, facility thanks to its connections with professors, service-oriented learning, volunteer requirements, or even extra credit in a course. But this year, Elachee wants to reach more UNG students.

Elachee will participate in UNG's eighth annual Volunteer Fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, in rooms 3110 A and B in the Martha T. Nesbitt Academic Building on the Gainesville Campus. The Volunteer Fair features several nonprofit, private and governmental community service providers.

New this year will be a faculty and staff preview one hour before the fair opens to students.

"I encourage anyone thinking of incorporating a service-learning component into their courses to come during this preview to explore possibilities with our community partners," UNG Academic Engagement Director Andrew Pearl said.

Pearl explained the Volunteer Fair advances UNG’s mission of community engagement to develop students as leaders for a diverse and global society.

UNG was one of the first public universities in Georgia to earn the prestigious Community Engagement Classification from The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which promotes service-learning and community partnerships and the many ways they can enhance the educational experience.

Each year, the Volunteer Fair attracts more than 500 students from the Gainesville Campus, Pearl said. Elachee is hoping to engage some of those students and expand its base of volunteers by participating in the Volunteer Fair for the first time.

"We want to reach more students in our area," said Amy Bradford, community relations manager at Elachee.

She said those who volunteer at the nature center, which is nestled in more than 1,440 acres of the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, never seem to be disappointed.

"Of the things I've heard from students is 'I love the activities you are doing. Now I know that you are here, I can come hiking,'" Bradford said.

Aneta Galazka, a senior UNG math major from Braselton, agreed.

"I like being outdoors and I go there to run," she said. "So I volunteer to help keep the trail clean."

A biology class required Galazka to volunteer at Elachee, but the 40-year-old continued her involvement after the class was complete.

"I liked the people who run it," she said.

Tanya Seabolt, the patient transition director with Affinis Hospice, said the Volunteer Fair has helped her recruit volunteers to work in the office or with patients. Office work entails answering phones and filing paperwork, while dealing with the patients is more hands-on.

"They can offer caregiver relief and socialization to our patients," Seabolt said. "It adds to the patients' quality of life."

While the patients benefit from the interaction, student volunteers may receive real-life experience.

"It helps them get involved in their community," Seabolt said. "It is essential that students learn about and become part of their community."

Dana Chapman, executive director of The Guest House, said volunteering at different agencies can help students figure out their career paths. She advises students to research the different organizations before signing up and trying something new.

"That way they can figure out if they like it or not," Chapman said. "If they don't, then they can scratch it off."

If they do like the work, they are enhancing their future, said Jessica Butler, executive director of Gateway Domestic Violence Center.

"They are learning skills that benefit them in their future careers and allows them to make contact in the community in the area or field they want to work in someday," she said. "And it can be a very rewarding experience. Students who start volunteering in the early years will create a good habit and it will follow them throughout their career."

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