Join me in pledging to volunteer after Thanksgiving

After spending the turkey day with family I reflected on my friends working at shelters and nursing homes. Many places have a rush of volunteers for the holidays, food drives and donating presents for the holiday season. It makes us feel good to share. Many people start volunteering or perhaps donate that extra can of pumpkin pie filling.  

Shelters and nursing homes are open all year. Why not pledge to volunteer this President’s Day? What plans do you have for next April? Maybe you can pencil in a date to share your gratitude. 

A day of caring can be a team building or family building activity. Fraternities and Sororities often volunteer together because caring together brings us closer to those we care about. Reap the benefits year round.

On my birthday I asked my social media friends to donate a dollar to a charity of my choice. By the end of the day I not only had a wall full of birthday wishes but over a hundred dollars donated. It was the best virtual present and I loved it. 

Giving back grows gratitude!  

I pledge this May I will take a day to volunteer at my local National Park! Even if I only pick up some trash on the beach I’ll do my part! 

Thanks for joining us at VV Team for a moment of gratitude this Thanksgiving! 

Behind the Scenes at the Archives and Special Collections

This week is a Behind the Scenes edition. Today, we look at the Archives and Special Collections at Valparaiso University Library. Any student from any department can elect to enroll in the unique and priceless experience. Lets take a look at an average day in the life of a History department intern.


Instructions: scan and itemize items in Excel

After a week of lectures, assignments and routine projects it is exciting to open a mystery box. You never know exactly what you’ll find inside or what needs to be done.

Today’s assignment is an unassuming grey box filled with an assortment of old documents. Inside I find letters, photographs and an identification card, an eerily similar card to my common and often taken for granted school ID card. The difference is this ID is from a Shanghai Jew who fled the Holocaust.

This little gray box holds the effects of a survivor who narrowly escaped the Holocaust. He fled to Shanghai to escape the Nazis in Europe. In contrast to all the short stories, novels and films I’ve watched this box doesn’t have a finite viewpoint or voice. These documents are anything but Hollywood. They don’t have a narrator and they speak for themselves. Together they make up a life, a complicated life of domestic, career and religious exploration. This box is one among hundreds lining the shelves awaiting digitalization from students.

The letters, photos and documents resemble my own family files. There are tax receipts, job records, letters of inquiry, letters asking favors, photographs of family and friends growing up and big events, and even scraps of unlabeled out of context fabric. This life was an entire life, not just a surviver of a single war, but a person who lived decades before and after a war. The war which was a great change in his life, was only a single chapter. He did amazing things. He survived and helped build our space program.

Who is he?

This is just one person among thousands who escaped to Shanghai. Stop by the Archives and Special Collections on the second floor of Valparaiso University’s Library. There is a display on the Shanghai Jews. Perhaps you could fit in a class through the History department or catch a public talk put on by the University. If not, why not spend two minutes to look at the display on the second floor near the the second floor Archives department?

These items are more then a story. They are crumbling, rough paper, smeared ink on telegrams and sepia colored photographs that blur into a room full of rare books. It is a tactile experience that is slowly decaying in your hands. The Archives and it’s interns attempt to digitize these items so when they are gone something echos beyond. I am honored to hold them in my hands, scanning the musty creased papers as I carefully slip digitized items into their special grey boxes to be buried again.

4:00 pm

Time to go home. I can’t help but think, this is not your average day of classes…

Check out the digitized items on the Archives and Special Collections website:

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Time for class…photographs graciously provided by the Archives and Special Collections.

Thank you from the VV Team!

Top ten reasons Valparaiso University students avoid volunteering and real opportunities to change that


We asked the Valparaiso University community and we listened to your heartfelt questions. There are many ways of volunteering and to make it less overwhelming we made an easy list of questions, fears and potential opportunities coming up at Valparaiso University. If you worry about volunteering issues, you are not alone. Thanks for your honesty!

Our top ten student questions and some real opportunities to explore volunteering:

1. What if I don’t have a lot of time?

Micro Volunteering

  • Sometimes volunteering is too big to handle now. We don’t judge here. How about baking some cookies for a local bakesale? Someone has to smell those lovely cookies baking….if you test eat a few….that’s up to you.

Check out some local orgs, maybe they need a batch of cookies at their next event:

2. What would I learn, or get out of it?

Volunteer tourism or Voluntourism

  • If you are a student, did you know traveling abroad is part of your tuition? Too good to be true, but you can use your scholarship or aid to travel over spring break and do some good while your at it. Check out the options, maybe this spring break you can make those two weeks really count.

Check out traveling abroad with your cohort and earn college credit:

3. What if I want to just stay on campus?

Organization positions

  • Few people realize how much volunteer work goes into student orgs. Valparaiso University students have 200+ non-profit organizations to choose from. There are even more non-volunteer organization that maybe just fun. Stop by a meeting or inquire about what they need. Maybe you don’t need to be president. Maybe they need someone to set up streamers for the next event. Did you know the organization Valpo Yoga teaches free yoga classes?

Check out the 200+ orgs:

4. What can I do?

Formal volunteering

  • Anyone can take a class and enjoy a local non-profit. Have you always wanted to have a green thumb or pose with a live hawk? How about learning about local endangered species while earning a certificate in a few months? Look at the Master Naturalist Certification at Taltree. You could be a certified expert in something by next semester.

Master Naturalist Class:

5. What if I’m too shy?

Informal volunteering

  • Maybe face to face isn’t your thing. It’s not required for volunteers to be people persons. Have you considered volunteering at a hotline? Valpo is home to many nonprofits like the Caring Place, breaking the cycle of violence with a 24 hotline. They depend on volunteers to change lives and save lives.

Caring Place:

6. Can it help me get a job?

Work toward your career by practicing now

  • It’s one of the most common myths. You can gain valuable experience and have fun volunteering. If you are a law student-what about volunteering your time at a law practice to defend non-profits? If you are a premed student-how about the local hospital? Even those Candy-Stripers learn valuable tips about hospital hygiene and regulations. Employers get the chance to know you and what better resume reference then your potential boss?

Check out the next Career Fair. You can volunteer there before you apply for a future career:

7. What can I really change?

Relief work

  • Ever wondered who actually does cleans up after hurricanes or packed that lunch for the homeless? Do you need practice before you graduate? Maybe you could practice organization and leadership by signing people in at the Red Cross Blood Drive.

Relief work with Red Cross:

8. How can I find time to relax if I’m volunteering?

Conservation or environmental

  • Imagine walking down a beautiful beach, the lakeshore sands sparkle in the sunset, your best friend is making you laugh after a bad day, then you stumble across a soda can. Instead of picking up seashells, your not really supposed to take those anyway, what about picking up a few plastic bottles? Valparaiso University will drive students there during welcome week to do just this.  

Welcome Week Events:

9. Isn’t it ambitious to think I could change the world?

Social Action

  • You can help change the world. Sometimes it is as easy as listening. Check out MLK day at Valpo. There will be many opportunities to speak up and to hear others opinions. You can even submit an art project. How does MLK day speak to you?


10. Will I actually enjoy it?

Community Service  

  • Okay so maybe all the above is not your cup of tea. How about buying your friend a cup of coffee while you study together? Or could you open a door for another student whose hands are full? Being a good neighbor is often overlooked. The city of Valparaiso will even pay for your next coffee if you’d like to meet your local neighborhood police officer or detective. You don’t need a penny or more then ten minutes to start.

Coffee with a Cop:

As your neighbor, Valparaiso Volunteers thanks you in advance for the next good deed you do!     

~Want an super easy good deed? Forward this post to a friend! Thanks from the VV Team!


Party with a Purpose-Academic Overture

To open the blog we reached out to Valparaiso University President Mark A. Heckler at the Academic Overture who shared his thoughts on Valparaiso University’s service with Valparaiso Volunteers. Regarding service President Heckler states,

“Valparaiso University is constituted of people from many different backgrounds and beliefs engaged in dialogue with one another in the common pursuit of truth. Students, faculty, staff and alumni also share in common a passion for leading and serving locally and globally. Service takes many forms at Valpo, from faith-based mission trips, to offering health care or engineering expertise to underserved communities in the U.S. and abroad, to volunteering in after-school programs or the local soup kitchen. Valpo’s community serves generously and cultivates hope. Valpo’s graduates carry that spirit of leadership and service from this place to every continent where they truly make a positive difference in their communities and places of worship. They are good people doing great things for a world that needs them. Go Valpo!”

Screen Shot 2018-08-25 at 2.56.12 PM.png—The Academic Overture, an annual party for faculty and staff, puts the University’s mission statement of “leading and serving the community” to action. True to form, the University staff partied the night away chatting about the upcoming year. Like their students Professors debated the merits of changing course materials, their individual teaching styles, syllabi and how to attract and inspire students. Library staff discussed their upcoming work with Professors, sustaining and creating new friendships. People shared everything from a rare treatise by Luther to iPhone photos of their vacation. The aim of the entire experience was to enjoy a lovely evening with coworkers and significant others before the start of the academic year.

IMG_4878.jpgIMG_4890.JPGThe theme of the evening was the farm, complete with photos of local farms, country music and a buffet of local farms. President Heckler proudly announced the University’s own cheif bids on the pigs at the local Porter County Fair. The University’s dedication to local and compassionately raised animals was showcased by the two youngest party goers. Verholt Farm’s youngest farmers raised two piglets through their local 4-H club. 4-H is the largest youth development organization in the United States with six million young farmers, teaching skills and providing leadership roles in their community clubs. The non-profit organization is not officially partnered with Valparaiso University. However, a real opportunity to lead in service, Valpo decided to support local businesses by bidding on one local farm’s 4-H pigs.

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The Kouts Indiana farm, Verholt Farms won multiple ribbons for their family’s animals. The children wore proud smiles while receiving praise for their award-winning pigs. The children laughed as the eldest child answered again the repeated question, what was the best part? – it was being able to raise the pigs. The youngest farmer added, “it was just so fun!” The pair were the celebrities of the night. People lined up to talk to them, take pictures with them and congratulate them on the best bacon bar they’d ever had. Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Mark Biermann congratulated them. The well-loved and superbly treated pigs were turned into a maple, jalapeno or chocolate covered bacon, pork belly or pulled pork sandwiches and a pile of decadent ribs. Photos and ribbons lined the wall alongside photos of the happy children and pigs.


The university’s own Art Department Chair and Professor Amy Tomasek brought the Porter County fair to life via photographs. Professor Burow-Flak of the English department commented on the vivid and “great person to know” Professor Tomasek is. Assistant Professor of Accounting Professor Luis and Assistant Professor of Psychology Professor Wetherell discussed new ideas to engage students in Masters or Senior projects. The atmosphere of the night was one of support and renewal before the meeting the new year. The people who make the University run were revving up to welcome returning and new students, as well as getting ready to help graduating students find their way in the world outside Valpo.

The bespoke fair celebrated local farmers and encouraged the future support of local artisans. President Heckler presented the different farmers and encouraged the University to support them. This real-life example of serving the community, Valpo truly supports local farmers. The university purchased food from local farms for the dinning services and dining halls. For example, party goers dinned on one local farm’s five different gourmet salads, a new local and healthy option that is being added to the dining hall this year. The university is dedicated to supporting community and the health of the university in new innovative ways.

The question of how to support a non-profit is often complicated. Yet, consider the simple way Valparaiso University and President Heckler implemented local food at a party. Supporting the non-profits of the community is much more than an annual donation. It can be as simple as the source of the sandwich or salad you eat for lunch. It could be meeting new friends and picking up trash while enjoying the rolling sands and majestic lake at the Dunes. It can be anything you want. For the next party you host, only your imagination is the limit. Professor Buinicki of the English department hosts non-profit parties at his home, introducing one new organization to friends while enjoying the evening with them. Maybe your children would like to visit the 4-H booth at the Porter fair next year. Perhaps your next party could include a few pamphlets about an upcoming blood or food drive. Who knows who might join you? Valparaiso Volunteers might be there. Check out the local orgs page and see what inspires you. Follow us this semester and learn more about how non-profit fits into student life!

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Want more info:

Valparaiso University:

Verhold Farm in Kouts, Indiana