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On Nov. 1, more than 200 people participated in KelloggCares, the annual Kellogg School service day. Here, a team assists the Child Care Center of Evanston by gardening.

Students participate in Kellogg Cares

Daylong KelloggCares service initiative makes big social impact

Kellogg students, alumni and their families give back to community during annual volunteer effort

By Amy Trang

11/5/2008 - With the message “True Leaders Care,” printed on the back of their T-shirts, Kellogg School students, staff, alumni and family members spread throughout Evanston and other communities Nov. 1 to participate in KelloggCares, an annual service day.

At Chicago-based Family Matters, KelloggCares volunteers performed yard maintenance for the nonprofit, whose mission involves building community leadership through family outreach.
At Chicago-based Family Matters, KelloggCares volunteers performed yard maintenance for the nonprofit, whose mission involves building community leadership through family outreach.
A KelloggCares team working at the Open Studio Project in Evanston on Nov. 1. Open Studio is a nonprofit arts and social service organization.
A KelloggCares team working at the Open Studio Project in Evanston on Nov. 1. Open Studio is a nonprofit arts and social service organization.
Photos © Chris Guillen
More than 200 people participated in the event, which marked its fifth year.

The initiative, whose motto is “global leadership starts locally,” puts into practice one of the school’s foundational principles: a focus on leadership and social responsibility. Volunteers performed a variety of tasks — including painting, cleaning, gardening and making minor repairs — for local nonprofit organizations.

“It helps students become responsible citizens of the world,” said Wendy Metter, associate director of the Kellogg School student affairs office. “The community appreciates seeing Kellogg students building a relationship with them.”

KelloggCares was founded in 2003 by Omar Hyder and Yumi Clevenger, both ’04, as a high-impact day of local community service that brings the Kellogg community together.

More than 15 area organizations in Evanston, Skokie, Des Plaines and Chicago participated in the service day, including the YMCA, Levy Senior Center, Habitat for Humanity and Child Care Center of Evanston. The KelloggCares leadership team added sites in Chicago for the first time to encourage staff and students at the school’s downtown campus to participate. About 35 Kellogg alumni also volunteered their services.

Employing a new recruiting method this year, student leaders enrolled a record number of volunteers for the event. The KelloggCares leadership team recruited site leaders prior to general volunteer sign-ups, event co-chair Boyu Hu ’09 said. Those site leaders also recruited volunteers within their own social networks and were responsible for coordinating the volunteer work with a specific community organization, Hu said.

Each nonprofit held a short information session onsite to educate participants about the organization’s role in the community.

“It helps our participants to understand the meaningfulness of what they are doing and to enhance their experience,” Hu said. “It strengthens the relationship between Kellogg and the community.”

The event also gave Kellogg students additional exposure to the local region beyond Northwestern University’s campus, said Chris Vansnick ’09, volunteer co-chair.

“On the surface, it looks like Evanston is rich but if you look beyond, you see that there is poverty and people with hardships in Evanston,” Vansnick said. “As you get into more leadership positions, these experiences give you perspective on how various people think and work.”

Heike Verselder, a volunteer co-chair and member of Joint Ventures (the organization for spouses, friends and partners of Kellogg students), said KelloggCares offered non-American participants a view of how volunteerism works in the U.S. She said that Kellogg participants benefit from these experiences and will use insights from the effort in their professional lives.

“You are a more compassionate boss if you understand these things,” Verselder said.

At Family Focus Evanston, volunteers planted flower bulbs and painted for the organization, which offers after-school and teen development programs. JoAnn Avery, senior staff project coordinator for Family Focus, said that Kellogg students are always enthusiastic and hardworking when volunteering.

“If you want to get to know the community and know the people, you have to get your hands in there,” Avery said. “And Kellogg students do that. The kids relate with them and feel comfortable with them.”

Avery said that Kellogg students are active in the community beyond the volunteer day. Many students offer volunteer services, such as tutoring, with area organizations throughout the year.

“We feel a connection with Kellogg, a connection that is not fake or temporary, but very genuine,” Avery said.