Using Your Powers for Good: Giving Back to Your Community
Ut Prosim. There likely isn’t a single Hokie who can’t tell you what this phrase means; “that I may serve.” This motto has been a driving force for Hokies here and abroad for many years and it speaks to the legacy of service and philanthropy that has followed students for the rest of their lives.
If you enjoy getting involved in your community or giving your time to a worthy cause, look no further than your own backyard! There are so many opportunities in Virginia Tech and the greater Blacksburg area to try your hand at volunteering and community-oriented work. On-campus organizations are dedicated to serving our community and Virginia Tech even plans its own philanthropy events to help get students involved. And, if you’re interested in taking your abilities to philanthropy work beyond campus, there are resources to help you find what opportunities fit you best! We’ll be discussing some of the ways you can practice giving back and where to look to find those opportunities.
Of course, the easiest way to find volunteer opportunities in your community is to utilize online resources. There are several websites dedicated to listing and searching for specific volunteer events and service-oriented job openings in your geographic area. And, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these services now offer remote volunteer opportunities. Some of the most prominent website include:
VolunteerMatch is one of the largest databases for nonprofit and volunteer programs. The site has connected 16.7 million volunteers to nonprofit organizations. Organizations can post job positions, temporary opportunities, and events on the site and site users are able to indicate their interest in helping with that opportunity. Listings can be filtered by location, target audience (groups, families, adults, etc.), and necessary requirements.
JustServe is another volunteer database that allows organizations to post programs in their local area. However, this site is focused less on of-the-moment one-time opportunities, and more on lasting positions within an organization and participation in ongoing programs. For example, the first listing for the Blacksburg area highlights The Giving Tree Food Pantry, which is looking for volunteers to help with their Friday night food pantry tasks.
DoSomething.org is a youth-focused organization that empowers younger generations to get involved in causes they care about. These causes are usually of a broader nature, such as ending gun violence and improving literacy rates. You can become a member and join young people from over 100 countries to be a part of organized social change initiatives, like signing people up to vote-- and you can earn verified volunteer hours and scholarships while you’re at it!
Idealist is the premier online job search platform for job seekers in the nonprofit sector. This website is similar to Indeed, but focuses on providing listings for positions at socially-focused organizations. You can filter by location, job type (that includes internships!), job function, issue area, and more, to find the perfect fit for your needs. The website also hosts grad fairs to connect recruiters and hiring managers from these organizations to dedicated grad students across the country.
Volunteer Organizations in Blacksburg
If you prefer to get involved with established organizations in the Blacksburg/ New River Valley area, Virginia Tech endorses several organizations that conduct partnerships with the university. If getting off-campus or connected with the local community appeals to you, then you should check out:
This organization supports older adults and their families through comprehensive care programs, abuse prevention services, social events, legal services, and home care. They are currently looking for meal and resource delivery drivers-- those interested in volunteering should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Habitat for Humanity ReStore provides gently used home goods and building materials to the Blacksburg area. Our local ReStore works with Habitat for Humanity NRV to build safe and affordable housing for those in need in our community. They are always looking for people to help build and to help run the donation centers, and volunteers can sign up on their website. They also have various other volunteer needs that require a variety of skills and experiences-- check out their website to see what you could contribute!
If you are more environmentally conscious, then the organizations, clubs, and opportunities listed in Virginia Tech Sustainability Service Opportunities directory may be a good fit for you! This directory lists about 20 different ways you can make a positive impact on the environment here in Blacksburg, including helping with our local farmer’s market. The directory includes all needed information, links to websites and Facebook pages, and points of contact for anyone interested in lending a helping hand.
The United Way is one of the oldest and most established nonprofit organizations in America. It is a reputable source of impactful volunteer programs and works to connect local organizations to volunteers to help meet their immediate needs. Its New River Valley branch works with a diverse group of organizations, such as the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley and NRCA Emergency Assistance Food Pantries. Many organizations need both resources and volunteers, so if you are not able to give your time, lists of necessary materials to donate can also be found.
Of course, who hasn’t heard of the YMCA? Our local YMCA gets involved in many community events and hosts ongoing volunteer programs that encourage VT students to give back. The YMCA hosts a craft fair and a book fair in Christiansburg, which are now seeking volunteers! If you want to dedicate your time to an ongoing project, they also need volunteers to help staff their thrift shop and to participate in their Meals on Main meal delivery program. You can sign up for all of these opportunities and more on their website.
Service Organizations at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech has countless clubs and organizations, many of which dedicate themselves to serving our community. It’s always great to connect with others who share your values and your passion for a certain cause, and having an organized and scheduled source of activities can make volunteering even more accessible for VT students. Some of Virginia Tech’s most active service organizations are:
Circle K is “the world’s largest student-led collegiate service organization.” Circle K’s core values; service, leadership, and fellowship, illustrate their dedication to being agents of change. They are involved in a variety of events on campus, including the Big Event and Relay for Life. They also get outdoors, partnering with local farms and conducting some highway cleanup via Adopt-a-Highway.
Alpha Phi Omega is the largest national co-ed service fraternity. Its Virginia Tech chapter was founded in 1934, when the school was still known as V.P.I! Members are provided 45 hours of service per semester, which is spent on different as-needed volunteer opportunities and on the fraternity’s “regular projects.” These projects include a Lunch Buddies initiative at a local elementary school, visiting local animal shelters to play with the pets, and hosting bingo at the Warm Hearth Nursing Home. Additionally, you have the ability to travel for your volunteer work and work with other organizations.
VT Engage is Virginia Tech’s “center for service learning, leadership education, and civic engagement.” They work to prepare students to be civic leaders and make positive social change and uphold the idea of Ut Prosim. VT Engage is responsible for the Campus Kitchen program, where students partner with Virginia Tech Dining Services to reduce food waste and increase access to food through taking unused food from dining halls to hunger relief organizations across the New River Valley. Alternatively, you can join one of their civic engagement programs, global service immersion projects, and weekend service programs.
Volunteer Opportunities at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech is so big on giving back, that it hosts its own annual philanthropy events! There are two major events every spring that draw thousands of students to attend. The campus rallies together around a cause in a truly inspiring way, coming together to put in the time and effort to make a positive difference.
The Big Event is a student-led event that encourages all students and faculty to get involved in a day of service. It has been the second largest event of its kind in the country since its inception 17 years ago. Around 1,200 service projects in the New River Valley area are completed each year! The event’s goal is to say “thank you,” to the community for supporting the university and its students for so many years. Although the event has been postponed for the past two years due to the pandemic, the event hopes to be held this year-- information regarding sign up and volunteer assignment will appear closer to the event date.
Relay for Life is an organization dedicated to ending cancer. They partner with Virginia Tech each year to host a massive fundraiser walk on the Drillfield, which has brought the Virginia Tech community together for 12 years running. Virginia Tech’s Relay for Life event is the largest of its kind in the country. Campus organizations and groups of friends are encouraged to sign up as a team and encourage as many people as they can to come out and donate. This year, the event is expected to be held on April 22, 2022. More information can be found on the event website.
Giving your time or your resources to a cause you care about is an endlessly rewarding experience. At Virginia Tech, it’s easy and fun to meet people both on and off-campus that share your passion for helping others. It’s each Hokie’s duty to represent Ut Prosim in a way that is meaningful to each of us, so find an opportunity that speaks to you and get ready to roll up your sleeves!
By Lauren Miles