Evanston on track to meet 150,000 volunteer hours with revamped volunteer website

Volunteer Evanston, the city's community service website, is making volunteering easier for residents as the city tries to reach its 150,000 community service hours goal to commemorate its 150th anniversary.

Source: City of Evanston

Volunteer Evanston, the city's community service website, is making volunteering easier for residents as the city tries to reach its 150,000 community service hours goal to commemorate its 150th anniversary.

Oliver Ortega, Reporter

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Evanston’s revamped community service website is aiming to make volunteering easier for residents as local officials try to reach 150,000 service hours in honor of the city’s 150th anniversary this year.

Volunteer Evanston allows residents to record their hours and sign up at more than 80 organizations serving Evanston, Adelita Hernandez (Weinberg ’05) said. Hernandez, the city’s citizen engagement coordinator and the website manager since December, said the city has recorded more than 60,000 hours so far this year, a big jump from the 2,000 recorded last year.

Although Hernandez said she believes there has been an increase in local volunteerism due to the city’s recent push, the numbers were probably low the previous years because the site was not well publicized or user-friendly.

About 1,200 people have signed up on Volunteer Evanston, with 200 registering in January alone, she said. NU Dance Marathon, which tallied hours for the first time this year, is the largest contributor for volunteer hours with 40,020, followed by Evanston-based Community Animal Rescue Effort with 2,200. Top contributors also include NU’s Athletic Department with more than 500 hours and Omega Delta Phi fraternity with more than 600.

“There’s already so much going on in the community,” Hernandez said. “The way the site is now makes it easier for people to record their hours and do more service. We have a lot of people who want to do things, and I think we’re well on our way to reaching our goal.”

Volunteer Evanston was created in 2011 by the city in partnership with Northwestern, the Evanston Community Foundation, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202, all of which provide funding for the initiative. Evanston150, a group created to commemorate the city’s 150th anniversary, has also helped publicize the site, group member Patrick Keenan-Devlin said.

The site has brought more volunteers to the Evanston Public Library, particularly for computer training service opportunities, adding to the library’s core group of aides, said Karen Danczak Lyons, the library’s director.

“People have heard about opportunities here through the site, especially volunteers interested in helping with computer skills, which makes sense when you think about it,” she said.

Nationally, volunteerism rates have been relatively steady over the past decade, with about 65 million people volunteering from September 2011 to September 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For National Volunteer Month in this month, the city has stepped up efforts to increase community service with more outreach and publicity, including on social media, Hernandez said. Dozens of volunteers staffed Evanston’s annual summer youth job fair Saturday.

National Volunteer Month began in 1974 when President Richard Nixon signed an executive order establishing a week in April celebrating volunteering, which later grew to include the whole month.

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