Millennials volunteer, make difference in Muncie community

<p>Rachel Johnson is a senior social work major that volunteers at least nine hours a week at Cardinal Kitchen and Student Voluntary Services. She has built a ramp through Housesaves of Delaware County.&nbsp;<i style="background-color: initial;">PHOTO PROVIDED RACHEL JOHNSON</i></p>

Rachel Johnson is a senior social work major that volunteers at least nine hours a week at Cardinal Kitchen and Student Voluntary Services. She has built a ramp through Housesaves of Delaware County. PHOTO PROVIDED RACHEL JOHNSON

Rachel Johnson’s life revolves around helping others.

The senior social work major volunteers at least nine hours a week: seven or eight at Cardinal Kitchen, two at a weekly program for Student Voluntary Services and perhaps a few more for her service sorority.

“I’m a huge advocate for volunteering no matter what your age,” she said.

Millennials, however, sometimes receive a bad rap when it comes to philanthropy and service—even if it might be an undeserved one.

A 2014 Reason-Rupe poll of 1,000 adults found that 71 percent of Americans over 30 said that Millennials were selfish. Millennials didn’t protest—the same percentage of 18-29-year-old respondents agreed.

Johnson doesn’t agree with this idea and some national surveys reflect that. 

The 2014 Millennial Impact report—a survey of more than 1,500 Millennials—found that 87 percent donated money to a nonprofit organization in 2013. Nearly half said they volunteered within the past month.

Millennials—particularly the ones Johnson surrounds herself with—are also an important part of Delaware County’s volunteer base.

Johnson is the president of Student Voluntary Services or SVS. More than 2,000 Ball State students work for SVS—a university student organization that connects students with different types of volunteer opportunities.

SVS volunteers can participate in a large-scale, one-time volunteer event like leaf raking; an independent program at a local, nonprofit agency; or a two-hour weekly, coordinated program at another agency.

Muncie Mission Ministries is one of those agencies. The nonprofit has many moving parts.

There’s its weekday lunch program that serves about 72 community members, its warehouse, where community donations are sorted through, and its thrift stores that raise money for the Mission and provide clothing and home items at a discounted price to people in poverty.

At the heart of it all is Jessie Dudley, the volunteer coordinator for the Mission. She makes sure that each charitable task has a person doing it, but she can’t solely rely on the Mission’s paid employees.

“We probably wouldn’t be able to function if we didn’t have volunteers,” she said.

A significant amount of her volunteers are Ball State students, she said. Some of them come as part of an SVS coordinated program.

One student in particular, she said, comes in to help whenever Dudley needs her. These are the types of people she’s in awe of.

“I’ve been surprised and blessed with the amount of people who just want to give their time,” she said. “It’s kind of eye opening.”

Laura Montoye, the assistant director of student life and the faculty contact for SVS, said she thinks Millennials are sometimes misrepresented as selfish.

“As a professor who works with Millennials, I think that they’re wonderful. They have so much optimism and have so much motivation to do instead of just following,” she said.

But not all Millennials are like Montoye’s SVS volunteers.

Volunteer rates were the lowest among people 20 to 24-years old in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Teenagers and people aged 35 to 44 were more likely to volunteer.

There is evidence that Millennials may be helping out in other ways. The Millennial Impact Report said Millennials are more likely to see tweeting about a cause as a way to contribute.

There are dueling accounts of the efficacy of this strategy, sometimes referred to as slacktivism.

Johnson said she thinks Millennials contribute to society in different ways, too. Some examples she used were dropping some change in a donation bucket or picking up litter with friends.

She also said that students don’t often join SVS because they love volunteering. They might want to build their resume or rack up some service hours for their sorority or fraternity.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” she said.

They’re still helping and making sure organizations like the Muncie Mission can function.

Johnson will never stop volunteering, she said. She’s grateful for what SVS has given her.

“I love being involved in my community, and I think volunteering is the best away to be able to do that- the best way to get to know people,” she said. 


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