The MU Office of Service Learning reports that in the 2004-05 school year, 2,429 students completed 65,000 hours of community service. Now that a majority of students have left Columbia, there is a void in volunteer help.
Angie Azzanni, program coordinator for Granny’s House, a faith-based outreach program for the Douglass Park housing projects, said it loses about 20 of its 25 volunteers in the summer.
At Granny’s House, volunteers make each child feel like “the coolest kid in the world,” Azzanni said. But with the reduction in volunteers, that mission has been reduced to three days a week instead of five, although enrollment is steady. Four or five volunteers interact with about 50 kids each day.
Throughout Columbia, some service organizations have called on a younger demographic to fill the volunteer void.
Four years ago, Columbia’s Office of Volunteer Services created a program that enlisted the support of 12- to 15-year-old students to deal with the annual challenge of college students leaving for summer. Leigh Nutter, volunteer coordinator for the city, said that volunteering enables people to make a difference in their community.
“We couldn’t do it without (the volunteers),” Nutter said.
Other volunteer-based organizations have also turned to using high school students to fill the void.
Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center uses horseback therapy that helps mentally, physically and emotionally strengthen people with disabilities. The riding center relies heavily on volunteer help, and it needs about 105 volunteers to assist the 98 riders and 20 horses this summer. It employs the help of middle school and high school students in the summer to replace college students.
The nature of other services requires volunteers to be at least 18, leaving the middle school and high school student population untapped.
Rainbow House loses about 70 percent of its volunteers in the summer primarily because volunteers must be at least 18. Jessica Sanders, volunteer coordinator for Rainbow House, said almost all its college-age volunteers leave at the end of the school year, but this year about 30 percent of them came back for the summer.
Volunteers’ responsibilities at Rainbow House range from playing Monopoly to scrubbing floors. Volunteers also help with fundraisers and go to the pool with the teenagers and children who live there temporarily.
“The ratios are just a little bit different, but we still have fun,” Sanders said. She added that Rainbow House was still looking for volunteers.
Rainbow House compensates for the loss by saving big projects and organizational duties for the school year.
Ronald McDonald House, which provides comfort and support to families with children who are receiving hospital treatment, experiences a downswing when college students leave for the summer, said Amanda Korte, communications and event coordinator.
The loss isn’t critical, Korte said, but Ronald McDonald House does try to compensate, planning events and activities when college students are in town.
At The Intersection, volunteers tutor and mentor children. The organization relies heavily on adult volunteers in the community. The Intersection also likes having older volunteers because some people in the program are in high school themselves.
Dana Battison, executive director of The Intersection, said that about 25 students volunteer regularly during the school year, but only one to two volunteer in the summer.