Joint Evanston, Northwestern effort aims to boost volunteerism

Ani Ajith

The City of Evanston, with help from Northwestern, will launch a new website next month to encourage more residents and students to volunteer in the community.

Local organizations, including NU student organizations, will be able to post service-related opportunities on Volunteer Evanston’s website, which will officially launch Feb. 14.

Student groups will be able to post information online, said Natalie Furlett, associate director of the Center of Student Involvement. Furlett added she hopes the website will host a separate section solely for NU student organizations.

“There might be a kind of NU umbrella for student groups,” Furlett said. “We can designate it students-only, but can’t restrict access to the information, which might be a problem.”

Users will be able to search for volunteer opportunities by categories, interests and specific groups, said Shanee Jackson, the city’s volunteer coordinator. For example, users could pull up only those opportunities that are approved for court-mandated service.

The city approached NU and the other Volunteer Evanston Program sponsors several months ago with the idea for a powerful new tool to organize easily and increase volunteerism in the community. Work on the website itself, spearheaded by Jackson, began last summer.

A consortium of local stakeholders, including the City of Evanston, NU, both local school districts and the Evanston Community Foundation, support the website financially, splitting the costs of launching and maintaing the new website evenly, Jackson said. The stakeholders hope to showcase the diversity of service organizations and volunteer opportunities in Evanston, she said. There is no fee to post or access the website’s information.

NU contributed $1,000 to the program, said Lucile Krasnow, NU’s special assistant for community relations.

Non-profit Evanston groups will receive instructions on how to register for the website and start posting upcoming opportunities at the Community Coffee and Service Fair on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

While the bare-bones structure of the website is already in place at volunteerevanston.org, Jackson encourages residents to wait for the official launch to visit the online resource.

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