A group of students stand hand in hand to help the community, linking to each other to create what is known today as Project H.E.L.P.
Project H.E.L.P. (Hands Engaged in Linking People) started at SUNY Plattsburgh in 1994 and has been growing since.
“Often times, students come in because they want to meet new people and also feel more connected with the Plattsburgh community, and, in addition, many Greek organizations at SUNY Plattsburgh are very involved with community service, as well as many clubs and organizations,” said Zach Ribert, Project H.E.L.P. coordinator. “These groups enjoy volunteering as groups because it also is a great bonding experience.”
The mission of this on-going service program, according to the Project H.E.L.P. page on SUNY Plattsburgh’s website, “is to provide students with volunteer experiences that are compatible with their interests, passions, talents and skills and that foster a sense of responsibility while meeting the needs of the local community. “
This program takes students and gets them into the spirit of volunteerism in the community, gaining a variety of experiences, becoming aware of societal issues and, overall, having fun.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for students to learn more about themselves,” said Michael Cashman, assistant director of campus activities and supervisor of Project H.E.L.P.
Project H.E.L.P. offers volunteer opportunities with children such as Momot Elementary School lunch buddies Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Oak Street Elementary study buddies Tuesday through Thursday from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. and Stafford Middle School mentoring program volunteers at various times during the school year assisting students completing homework assignments, coping with social concerns and organizing games and activities.
Also, the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen utilizes volunteers Monday through Friday between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to assist with meal preparation, serving the meals and cleaning up.
Project H.E.L.P also offers volunteer opportunities with the elderly at Meadowbrook Nursing Home, assisting with activities such as bingo, arts and crafts, social events and friendly visits. Times vary each week depending on when the activities are scheduled and the volunteers’ availability.
“I have volunteered at a handful of organizations,” Ribert said. “My favorite experiences volunteering have been when I’ve worked with Habitat for Humanity as part of the Alternative Spring Break Program.
“This was an experience that was full of excitement, fun and, of course some challenges, but it was arguably one of the best weeks of my life.”
Each of these on-going programs requires a long-term commitment, at least two times per month depending on the students’ schedule. If transportation becomes an issue, Project H.E.L.P provides transportation to different locations Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A 24 hour sign-up with a name and phone number is needed ahead of time for a van ride. A specific departure time will be needed, as well.
If students are more interested in one-time volunteer opportunities, they can assist in a number of Clinton County agencies that offer one-time service event needs such as fundraising for American Heart Association’s Heart Walk, Adopt-a-Block neighborhood roadside clean up, fundraising for the March of Dimes and participating in food drives for local food shelves.
Another one-time volunteer opportunity will be the United Way Day of Caring that will take place April 5 to help people in need throughout Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. Church groups, businesses, school groups, clubs, community organizations are encouraged by the United Way of the Adirondack Region to volunteer.
“Last year, our students were involved in 40 sites out of 70 that were offered that day,” Cashman said. “Our student body collectively helped volunteer over a thousand hours.”
To sign up for the United Way Day of Caring, download a project request form on http://www.unitedwayadk.org/dayofcaring.html and send to 45 Tom Miller Road or fax to 563-0270.
If a student, student club, organization or team would like to get involved with Project H.E.L.P., download and complete the Project H.E.L.P Volunteer interest form and one-time request form from Project H.E.L.P.’s page on the SUNY Plattsburgh website and submit it to their office located in the Center for Student Involvement on the first floor of the Angell College Center.
If anyone would like to receive more information about group volunteer opportunities, stop by the office to register for a group mailbox to receive new volunteer opportunities and events.
“Students shouldn’t feel pressured when volunteering,” Ribert said. “It can be a very fun and eye-opening experience that many never forget.”