NCDC holds annual volunteer fair

Jeanne Kuang, Reporter

Northwestern Community Development Corps on Wednesday hosted its Fall Volunteer Fair, featuring Evanston and Chicago non-profit organizations that give students opportunities for involvement.

Weinberg senior Amalia Namath, an NCDC co-chair, said a steady stream of students came to the fair, held in Norris University Center’s Louis Room, throughout the afternoon. Inside the fair, students explained their causes and recruited volunteers for their service sites.

“I think it really opened up options for people who didn’t know how to get involved,” said Medill freshman Alexis O’Connor, who attended the event and signed up for seven or eight sites. O’Connor added that the variety of options at the fair distinguished her view of college volunteering from high school volunteering.

This year, about 40 sites partnered with NCDC came to seek volunteers. They ranged from Family Focus, an after-school program for elementary and middle school children in Evanston, to Inspiration Cafe, a site in Chicago that serves meals to the homeless. Other sites help immigrants learn English, support patients in hospitals and health centers or grow organic food for homeless shelter pantries.

Namath said NCDC has a “strong relationship” with its partner sites but is also looking for new ones. The organization, she said, mainly helps sites in need of volunteers by promoting civic engagement at Northwestern and has been pushing to be more proactive in adding new sites this year.

One new site at this year’s fair was 826 Chi, an organization that helps Chicago children and teenagers sharpen their writing skills. Namath said NCDC is also considering future partnerships with Eye to Eye, which mentors students with learning disabilities, and volunteer programs that would interest pre-med, pre-vet or pre-dental students.

“We’re hoping this forward movement will help everyone,” Namath said.

The goal of NCDC “is to try to bridge that disconnect” that sometimes exists between NU students and the Evanston and Chicago communities, said Weinberg junior Lauren DePaula, an executive board member of NCDC’s Community Outreach branch.

Kaleb Tsang, a first-year graduate student in McCormick, said NU can be sheltered, and working as a volunteer for the tutoring program Asian Youth Services for the past five years has given him the chance to see “other parts of Chicago.”

Both DePaula and Namath noted the fair was a way to open students’ eyes to the area around NU.

“We want to make sure Northwestern students are getting involved and knowing what’s going on in Evanston and all of Chicagoland,” DePaula said.

Namath said it is easy for students to mistakenly think of Evanston as just a college town. She said volunteering in the area is “a way to take a step back from classes and extracurriculars” and gain a sense of awareness.

This fair was an opportunity “for students to show Evanston and Chicago that we care about the community we’re a part of,” Namath said. “We want to give back.”

Jeanne Kuang