’Tis the season to give back


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Among barking and laughter, UI junior Katie Murph walked along the kennels in the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center.

With families roaming around the center to find their potential new pet at the sixth-annual Holiday With the Hounds event, she spent the afternoon answering questions about the nine dogs the shelter had available for adoption.

In the next week, four of the furry friends had found new homes.

“Without volunteers, events such as this wouldn’t be able to happen,” she said after helping a group of excited kids attending the event, which asks community members to donate such items as toys, treats, and cleaning supplies.

Students such as Murph contribute a significant part of Iowa City’s volunteer hours. And while finals often have them occupied during some of the holiday season, many said there is a continuing growth among student volunteers.

Mary Mathew Wilson, a program associate for the UI Career Center, said she has definitely noticed a spike over the years, though she didn’t have available data on how many UI students volunteer their time.

She said she is always looking for those interested in giving back to the community and regularly meets with students to talk about available opportunities.

“It’s pretty amazing how generous people are,” she added.

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Many UI student groups focus on service, including Dance Marathon, which encourages members to volunteer at the UI Hospitals and Clinics or at events for families.

The UI’s 10,000 Hours Show helps students find volunteering opportunities around the holidays. UI students must volunteer 10 hours to receive tickets to an annual concert.

In April, participants racked up 19,394 hours in one year — up from 15,289 from the year before.

“Iowa City is very community-oriented,” said Kristin Fuhs, the executive director of 10,000 Hours.

Volunteering statistics agree.

Iowa City ranked second in the nation among 75 midsize cities for service rates, with roughly 49 percent of residents volunteering, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

And around the holiday season, locals see more chances to volunteer with programs like Project Holiday, a local collaboration that provides less fortunate families with food and gifts.

At a recent event, Shirley Wang joined 51 fellow students from Northwest Junior High to help measure and package food at the old Cub Foods building on Highway 6.

“It’s really important because everyone deserves to have a really good holiday,” said Wang.

In addition to food, Project Holiday collected almost 9,000 donated gifts, which it plans to distribute to around 700 local families, said Cpt. Jennifer Smith of the Salvation Army.

“That’s what Christmas is all about, that you know that there are children who will wake up Christmas morning and will have presents under their tree,” she said.

Students as well as community members benefit from these volunteer events, Wilson said.

“Volunteering can just open a whole new avenue of exploration,” she said.

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