By Seth Littrell

Have you ever wondered what you could do to make a difference while you’re in college? Brian Perry and the volunteers at the Office of Community Service have the answer to that.The Office of Community Service, a part of the Office of Student Life, hosts programs that encourage students to volunteer for the betterment of their community.

“We plan service events on and off campus targeting multiple focuses,” said Perry, the assistant director of the Office of Student Life.

Every month the Office of Community Service has programs for students to get involved in, such as blood drives or weekends devoted to community service.

“It’s at your convenience,” said Michael Mazzotta, a junior who has been involved with student volunteering since his freshman year. “We’re very considerate of the students’ time.”

Students who choose to volunteer would do so on Friday and Saturday, and have the day off on Sunday. Some of these volunteer trips include going to locations such as Natural Bridge and Lake Cumberland to help clean the environment.

For students who want to take community service to the next level, the Office of Community Service also offers Alternative Breaks.

These are weeklong events during which students travel to various locations across the U.S. and even beyond its borders, performing an assortment of services. Some locations students have visited include Manhattan, New Orleans, Costa Rica and Honduras.

“They’re designed to be intense service as well as cultural immersion,” Perry said.

Students on the Alternative Breaks will take part in a wide variety of service activities, from raising HIV and AIDS awareness in New York to fighting homelessness and hunger in Georgia.

Mazzotta reflected on an Alternative Break he took to Honduras, where he built houses with Habitat for Humanity.

“It was grueling work; we had to make our own bricks and haul them to the build site without heavy machinery,” he said. “We take a lot for granted here (in the U.S.), just thinking that bricks and machines will be there for us.”

Miles Owen, a community service intern at the Office of Student Life, led an Alternative Spring Break trip to Charleston, S.C. There, he and other student volunteers helped turn an old beach property into a community center.

“The spring break trips are phenomenal,” Owen said. “We’d work during the day, and at night we got to hang out at the beach or go hang out in downtown Charleston.”

Future locations for Alternative Breaks include Atlanta, Ga. in the fall and the Mojave Desert in spring 2011.

Students who don’t want to travel or don’t have free time during breaks have other options on campus and in the Richmond community as well. Perry said students wanting to get involved with local community organizations only need to visit him in the Office of Student Life, where he connects people who want to get involved with community partners. Perry and the Office of Student Life also act as consultants for students trying to start their own volunteer group. All of this is in addition to various on campus events.

The Office of Community Service hosts a Social Justice Film Series, where a new film raising awareness about community action is shown every month. During the week of Oct. 18, the Office of Community Service will have a blood drive for Make a Difference Day, as well as other events celebrating the day.

Students who want to get involved in volunteering can go to the website or join the Facebook group “EKU Office of Community Service.