Western program warms up for more volunteering

Missouri Western’s Center for Service looks to increase student involvement in the community.

Getting involved in the community now is becoming easier for students at Missouri Western State University.

Missouri Western’s Center for Service is working on bolstering student volunteerism by offering free elective credits for community service.

According to Gary Clapp, Director of the Center for Service at Missouri Western, students can take a class, called University 201, where they can get involved with or create their own community-service projects to earn one elective credit for every 40 hours of volunteer work.

“You have to take elective credits anyway,” Clapp said. “It’s a great opportunity for people to reduce some of the cost associated with higher education.”

The Center for Service currently has nine students going through the online orientation for University 201.

While some student organizations already are required to do some volunteer work, Clapp said University 201 will attract more students to volunteer in the community.

“What we find is that once people start doing some good work in the community, they don’t want to quit,” Clapp said. “Once they’ve got their hours in for what their needs are, maybe some of them quit but some of them say, ‘Hey, that makes me feel good!’”

Sonia Yang, a student at

Missouri Western, said she experiences those same feelings about volunteering.

“I like to give back to the community,” Yang said. “I want to help people out.”

Yang’s most recent project involved building structures out of donated canned goods with the St. Joseph Youth Alliance. Yang said students should get involved in the community because it can enrich their lives.

“Get yourself out there,” Yang said. “There’s a lot of organizations in town, like Second Harvest, that need help.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated volunteering in all sectors of the community. According to Clapp, none of the Center for Service’s partners wanted to take in students right away.

“It was only last week that Mosaic finally said yes,” Clapp said. “I’d hate to blame COVID, but everywhere we go it’s there.”

Julie Case, volunteer coordinator at Mosaic Life Care, said the biggest challenge with COVID-19 was telling volunteers in March that they would not be able to return for some time. Since then, Mosaic has been gradually taking in volunteers again.

“Although we have been able to have a small number of volunteers return to the hospital, for the safety of our patients, caregivers and community, that number is minimal,” Case said.

Yang said despite the pandemic, volunteering always is important.

“It doesn’t matter if there’s an epidemic or not,” Yang said. “It just means you have to volunteer in smaller groups versus volunteering in bigger groups, so you’re still getting yourself out there.”

Chase Merwin can be reached at chase.merwin@newspressnow.com