Adopt-A-Family Caps Student Volunteer Bureau Busy Semester

For Albion College’s Student Volunteer Bureau (SVB), the “season of giving” in December is more literal than figurative. “We had more than 250 people who just came to help wrap presents,” says SVB president Jacqulyn Schaefer, ’23. “We had to do it in the Science Complex Atrium.”

The gifts — collected from offices and student groups on campus — went to the community Adopt-A-Family program. This year, for the second time, SVB organized the gift collection and distributed the gifts, too, with two holiday parties at the Ludington Center.

“We had Santa, and craft projects for the kids. It’s a fun night for the families,” Schaefer says. Adopt-A-Family recipients were not required to attend, but Schaefer says that many families enjoy the festivities. “We had one person who cried when we put all the presents in her car,” Schaefer says. “People are very grateful and we’re just happy we can do this event.”

Adopt-A-Family is both SVB’s largest fall event and one of its “traditional” projects. Schaefer said many Greek organizations plan for it in their annual budgets.

Thanks to a substantial membership growth, SVB is doing much more.

“Whatever people want done, we can help with it,” says Schaefer, noting that this semester, it wasn’t uncommon to see 80 people at the weekly meetings. No time is wasted — every week, members work on “resource” projects, like creating blankets for a local shelter, or bracelets for children who require court-appointed legal protection.

Schaefer, who has been a member of SVB since her first semester at Albion, now also has an internship with AmeriCorps that supports her in making SVB an even more robust volunteering experience. “We want to move our work out into the community more,” she says.

Schaefer is working to reestablish SVB’s relationships with area small businesses and programs, all of which suffered during COVID. SVB is also a source of helping hands for Harrington Elementary School. “They had more bulletin boards than teachers, and it was hard for them to keep them decorated,” says Schaefer. “We were able to use our weekly meetings to cut out hundreds of leaves. The children wrote what they were thankful for on the leaves for a Thanksgiving project, and then the teachers hung them on the boards,” Schaefer says. “We have a lot of resources and we want to help our community in every way we can.”

With SVB’s membership hovering around 250, Schaefer knows that SVB’s “popularity” is a factor in why people join. She also knows some students join because many Albion College programs and courses encourage or require students to participate in community service.

But most students, she thinks, know it’s the right thing to do — for the community and for themselves.

“Volunteering expands your world,” she says. “It lets you understand that not everyone has the same resources or abilities. It makes you well-rounded. Building relationships and getting along with people are things you’re going to need to do when you’re not a student anymore.”

She adds, “just giving an hour of my time, just giving a little kindness, I can improve someone’s life. I’m so happy to be a part of one of the organizations that provides those opportunities.”