Community Service Day Draws 250 Volunteers

Community Service Day

North Park University spearheads cleanup efforts in Albany Park

CHICAGO, IL (May 1, 2009) – A shopping cart, a bicycle, a steel drum, and a bus stop sign still attached to its pole were among a few of the more surprising things reclaimed from the North Branch of the Chicago River by North Park University students, employees, and alumni on the University’s second annual Community Service Day.

“Both years we’ve recovered interesting items,” says Tony Zamble, outreach coordinator for University Ministries and an organizer of the April 25 event.

About 250 participants took on 15 work and cleanup projects in and around Albany Park. North Park volunteers partnered with members of a local nonprofit, Chicago Time Exchange, which encourages individuals to offer their services, (from washing cars to providing music lessons), in exchange for “time dollars” they can use to purchase services from others.

“We saw a community engaged,” says Zamble, inspired by the turnout. “Last year about 120 people participated in the inaugural Service Day. Among North Parkers, this year’s numbers represent about an 85 percent increase over last year. Who knows where we will be next year?”

River cleanup continues to be the most popular project, he adds. This year teams canvassed the river by canoe from North Park’s campus to Cicero Avenue clearing debris.

For staff member Jessica Gockley, the opportunity was unusual as well as very practical. “The trash in the river isn’t just unsightly, but it’s also polluting our waterways,” she explains. Gockley notes that the adverse affects of last September’s flood were visible. “The parts of the river that were most affected by the flood were also the dirtiest, with plastic bags and other garbage tangled high up in tree branches.”

Other groups picked up trash in the Foster Forest Preserve, provided childcare, and offered assistance at various neighborhood churches and community centers. All told, more than 600 hours of service were rendered.

“The impact is always incalculable,” says Zamble, referring to the effect on volunteers themselves. “We cannot quantify the impact a canoe ride with a faculty or staff member might have on a student, nor can we put a price on the stories students will tell about their experience on this day.”