‘Super’ Saturdays connect students to volunteer options

Desiree Bartoe

Freshman exploratory major Annah Trunick gives a quilt to a Hattie Larlham resident. Students visited Hattie Larlham as part of Super Service Saturdays. LESLIE CUSANO | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

As Kent State students round the corner at Hattie Larlham, a center for children and young adults with severe disabilities, they enter Pod H, where those with the most severe handicaps reside. Here the nurses sit around a table, enjoying their lunch with a resident named A.J.

A.J.’s black, curly hair sprouts from a red, white and blue scrunchy on the top of her head and her tongue sticks out of her mouth as she studies each of the strangers. She has Neonatal Hypoxia, a disease that results from pulmonary or cardiac dysfunction.

“Do you want a colorful quilt, A.J.?” Volunteer Specialist Jana Larsen asked. “Look, which one do you want? This one?”

A.J.’s lips curl upward, her cheeks bulge and her eyes squint together as Larsen pulls a vibrant red, pink and orange quilt from the cart. The six Kent State volunteers see A.J.’s happiness, and soon everyone in the room is glowing.

Every other Saturday, the Center for Student Involvement organizes a program called Super Service Saturdays. Through this program, students have the opportunity to volunteer their time to help people and organizations such as Hattie Larlham.

CSI coordinates the organization, time and transportation for students who want to volunteer.

“It gives students the opportunity to give service without the thinking,” said Matt Haramis, Super Service Saturdays coordinator and AmeriCorps*VISTA representative. “Basically, all they have to do is show up.”

Last Saturday, students had the opportunity to volunteer at Hattie Larlham, Habitat for Humanity and Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. More than 20 students volunteered.

At Hattie Larlham, students helped pass out quilts donated by the Middlefield County Quilt Guild.

“It makes me feel refreshed,” said physics graduate student Naresh Shakya. “As human beings, we have to be involved in humanitarian work like this. Super Service Saturdays makes that possible.”

Organizations recognize the good work of Kent State students and often request for CSI to send them volunteers, Haramis said. The organizations’ staff, patients, friends and family appreciate the extra help.

“It is just so great that these kids care so much to give their time, especially on a Saturday,” said Jean Nowland, great-grandmother of one of the Hattie Larlham residents. “If I start thanking them too much, I’ll cry and never stop. I just really appreciate it.”

Hattie Larlham’s staff often needs help at the front desk, in the schools, or they just need someone to be a companion to their residents.

“We love this program, and we love working with Kent State,” Larsen said. “We promote volunteerism as an important part of being a good citizen. We like to advocate the importance of helping disabled people, and this program fits with our goals.”

Students often volunteer for Super Service Saturdays because it is a requirement for a class or student group; however, some students just enjoy helping others.

“I went to Super Service Saturdays because it was mandatory for my sorority,” freshman exploratory major Annah Trunick said. “I had a really good feeling after I volunteered. So this time I just did it for me.”

During the semester students have been able to volunteer for other organizations, including the King-Kennedy Community Center, Miller Community House, Animal Protective League of Portage County, Safer Futures and Coleman Professional Services.

Although there will not be any more Super Service Saturdays this semester, the program will resume at the beginning of next semester, Haramis said. Students can participate by contacting him at (330) 672-8010.

Contact social services reporter Desiree Bartoe at [email protected].