More than 70 Redbirds teamed up to make a difference in Bloomington-Normal – one ball of cereal, one bag of pasta and one bag of school supplies at a time – on Illinois State University’s fourth #RedbirdImpact Day of Service on Saturday June 11.
A record number of alumni, family members, faculty and staff participated in the day of service which included volunteer opportunities with the Midwest Food Bank, Back 2 School Alliance and School Street Food Pantry. Attendees were also invited to the #RedbirdImpact luncheon and celebratory social hour at Pub II.
“Four years ago, we created the concept of a Campus Service Day to give our alumni the opportunity to give directly back to the community and support the ISU Civic Engagement Pillar” , said Senior Director of Alumni Engagement Stephanie Duquenne ’04, MS ’15. “I’m absolutely thrilled – this is the highest level of participation we’ve had since the #RedbirdImpact weekend began. It shows that our Redbirds want to give back and help our community partners.
Mandy Phillips ’00 volunteered with her high school daughter, Anna Phillips, during all four years of #RedbirdImpact events. They were among more than 40 volunteers who spent Saturday morning at the Midwest Food Bank repackaging a bulk donation of Apple Jacks cereal into individual servings for local K-12 students to take home for the weekend breakfast.
“I’m giving back during #RedbirdImpact because I feel like the ISU has given me so much,” said Mandy Phillips. “One person can make a difference, but when you work with a group of people, the impact is magnified all the more.”
Anna Phillips will be a junior at Normal West High School and plans to attend Illinois State. She said volunteering is “really fun,” especially when surrounded by Redbird alumni working toward a common goal. “It’s nice to see dedicated people, knowing I could be like them in the future,” Phillips said.
Jasmine Buckner ’11, an office manager for the College of Applied Science and Technology, brought her two daughters and son to Saturday morning’s service event at the Midwest Food Bank. “We’ve been blessed with a lot of things, and I want to be able to bless other people,” Buckner said. “And I want to instill that in my kids when they’re young.”
Buckner’s 6-year-old daughter, Jalyn Buckner, smiled and laughed along with other volunteers while sticking labels on bags freshly filled with Apple Jacks. “Look how happy my daughter is,” Jasmine Buckner said. “I think she made a lot of friends.”
One of Jaylyn Buckner’s new friends at the Apple Jacks label table was Dave Templeton ’67. “I’ve been in service organizations throughout my working life, and I thought it was something I could do for ISU and for the Midwest Food Bank,” Templeton said between the app. of labels and the conversation with Buckner.
Dr. Annie Weaver, Ed.D. ’21, the assistant director of after-school programs for the Center for Civic Engagement and a #RedbirdImpact Service Day organizer said that building human connections is an “awesome” benefit of service activities. “Nobody’s on their phone. They’re sitting across the table and working together,” Weaver said. “They’re talking and connecting. And so, it’s just an amazing way to bond. .
While some Redbird volunteers at the Midwest Foodbank repackaged cereal, others filled bags with meal-sized portions of pasta. Pasta-wrapping crew member Mike Matejka ’74 said hard-hitting community service has long been part of Illinois state tradition.
“When you do something like that, you see mounds of pasta and mounds of cereal,” Matejka said. “But when you seal that bag, it’s dinner for a family; it’s breakfast for a child who might not have breakfast otherwise. When you take a big operation and personalize where it goes, then you realize the impact.
After finishing their work at the Midwest Food Bank, the Redbirds continued to volunteer afternoons at the School Street Food Pantry and pack school supplies for the Back 2 School Alliance backpacks.
“We believe that every student in the State of Illinois can become what we call an ‘active citizen’ who actively participates in their community. This also extends to our alumni,” Weaver said. “It’s a way for alumni to get to know some of the many amazing community partners we have, and I hope they find their passion, an issue they care about, and see that they can s get involved and make a difference. ”
During #RedbirdImpact month, Duquenne said the University challenged its alumni to complete 250 hours of community service in June. Through the #RedbirdImpact Day of Service at Normal as well as several regional alumni volunteer events, Duquenne said more than 220 hours of service have already been tracked and there are still opportunities for alumni to participate either through individual volunteer work or through remaining regional events. Alumni are also encouraged to make an impact by supporting scholarships.
“Make time to give back in any way you feel capable this month and throughout the year,” Duquenne said. “Making an impact doesn’t stop in June. Your service is appreciated all year round.
Alumni can log their volunteer hours or make an impactful donation through the #RedbirdImpact Month website.